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Quality Inclusive Early Childhood Programs: 10 Things to Look For

by Donna Nylander

In most families, the first day of school triggers excitement and anxiety. In families who choose an inclusive setting for their child with disabilities there is concern about their child being accepted, the program seeing their child's strengths as well as challenges, and the program's readiness to welcome a child with special needs. Recent research has taught us that when children with special needs learn alongside their typically-developing peers, everyone benefits. Inclusive settings should be the first option to be considered for young children with disabilities.

But what should parents look for as they seek quality inclusive early childhood programs for their child? And what should educators aim for in shaping quality inclusive programs? Listed below are 10 questions to ask about a program and corresponding indicators of a quality inclusive program. They are adapted and expanded from indicators developed by Dr. Mary Beth Bruder (see Bruder 1993):

These indicators help ensure a quality early childhood program is provided to students with and without disabilities. Take the challenge to implement an inclusion program or find one for your child. The benefits outweigh the challenges. You will find the journey is worth it!


Bruder, M. (1993). The provision of early intervention and early childhood special education within community early childhood programs: Characteristics of effective service delivery. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 13(1), 19-37.

Family Child Learning Center (1991). Preschool integration handbook- daycare/preschool reference for inclusion. Tallmadge, OH: Author.  

Donna Nylander is Principal of the Valley View District 365U Early Childhood Center, Romeoville, Illinois. She may be reached at 815/886-7827 or



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Retrieved from the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota ( Citation: Catlett, C., Smith, M. Bailey, A. & Gaylord, V. (Eds.). (Summer/Fall 2009). Impact: Feature Issue on Early Childhood Education and Children with Disabilities, 22(1). [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration].

The PDF version of this Impact, with photos and graphics, is also online at

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