Having an Inclusive Early Childhood Program Essay

An inclusive classroom should be set up with children with and without disabilities. They need to be part of an environment that meets the needs of all children. Having an inclusive classroom means that there is a sense of a society in which all children are made to feel welcomed. The classroom teacher needs to facilitate the process of including the children into the entire program. They need to take an active role in helping children become part of a community within the classroom. In order for children to be actively engaged, the classroom curriculum needs to be modified to meet all needs for all children.

In my review I have stated documentations from sources that support the need for inclusion among all aspects of early childhood programs. I also developed a survey to collect data from teachers that provide an inclusive classroom through the New Mexico Pre-K Program. Within my conclusion and reflection, I have present information on the importance of providing an inclusive classroom experience among all children and the advantages of providing and inclusive program. Many years ago students with special needs were put into classrooms and segregated from the so called “regular” students.

Educators felt that the children could be taught separately in smaller groups in another classroom. Educators felt that children with special needs needed an instruction separate from the other children. Fortunately over time it was learned that it was more beneficial to provide an inclusive classroom for all children. Including all children into the classroom would be a success for all children within their learning abilities. | | As per Hawkins (1994), during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, minorities and women were protected by the Civil Rights Legislation but the rights of people with disabilities were not protected.

During these movements there was no protection against people with disabilities. Both movements demonstrated the possibilities for creative political and personal responses to discrimination and social devaluation. This developed a need for personal empowerment and community organizing among people with disabilities who traditionally had been isolated. In political terms, the influence of the civil rights era was influenced by many individuals with disabilities and later became active in the Disability Rights Movement.

There had become a personal empowerment and community organization among people with disabilities who had traditionally been isolated from the mainstream of society. People with disabilities were protected under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Under this act, it prohibits discrimination on the bases of a disability. Then the process of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which was made for all children with disabilities to receive a free, appropriate public education regardless of abilities.

IDEA strives not only to grant equal access to students with disabilities but also to provide additional special education services. (Hawkins 1994). As the author Kohan (1999) explains, the categories of disabilities are: autism, deaf/blind, deafness, hearing impaired, mental retardation, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, serious emotional disturbance, specific learning disabilities, speech language, visual impairment and other health impairment. A student must have a disability that adversely affects her or his educational performance in order to receive special educational services. Kohn, 1999). As per Kirsch (1996), children that qualify under IDEA are provided with services and accommodations individualized to their needs. All children that are suspected of having a disability are entitled to a comprehensive evaluation by a disciplinary team at no cost to parents. If a child shows that he/she will need special education services then an Individual Education Plan will be implemented. Once a child has an IEP, the child will be provided services as per the IEP and then re-evaluated within three years to be reviewed as per accomplishments and or adjustments to the IEP.

Additionally, students covered under IDEA are granted other protections and safeguards. Suspension from school for 10 cumulative days within the school year may result in a manifestation determination to decide if a link exists between the child’s behavior and his or her disability. If a child covered under IDEA is suspended or expelled, he or she is still enrolled with the schools decision and request an impartial due process hearing. Exceptions include when the child brings a weapon or drugs to school or is determined to be a danger to her or himself or others.

As per NAEYC Association (2009), today an increasing number of infants and young children with and without disabilities play, develop and learn together in a variety of places. Children play and develop in homes, early childhood programs, neighborhoods and community settings. Members and society promote opportunities for development and learning and a sense of belonging for every child. In many ways a community setting that provides an inclusion of abilities does not reflect against previous educational practices of separating and isolating children with disabilities.

Inclusion takes many different forms and implementation which is influenced by a variety of factors. There needs to be a shared national definition of what actually inclusion really means. There needs to be a common understanding of the true meaning of inclusion. The key components of a high quality inclusive program needs to be identified. These programs can be used by families, practitioners, administrators, policy makers in order to improve early childhood services, (NAEYC, 2009).

The NAEYC Association (2009) defines Early Childhood Inclusion as “Early childhood inclusion embodies the values, policies and practices that support the right of every infant and young child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to participate in broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities and society”, (NAEYC 2009). These inclusive experiences help children with or without disabilities. It gives children a sense of belonging and being a member of society and develops friendships.

Having an inclusive program helps children to develop their full potential in an early childhood setting. Once the values of the classroom are set, we need to provide the access to a wide range of learning opportunities for children. In some cases there might need to be simple modifications in order to facilitate access for individual children. It should be a universal design that can be used to support the environment throughout the classroom and sometimes in modifying any physical or structural barriers.

Environments need to show a design where learning reflects the format for instruction and learning. We need to make accommodations to where every young child has access to learning environments. There needs to be educational routines and activities that are incorporated to the general education part of the curriculum. Once children have access to an early childhood program, some children will need additional individualized accommodations and supports to participate fully in all aspects of learning activities.

Adults/teachers need to promote a sense of belonging, participation and engage children with and without disabilities. They need to make it an inclusive setting in a variety of ways. It is beneficial to have supports in place from ongoing professionals such as practitioners, specialists and administrators in order to promote high quality early childhood inclusion program. Inclusion has to establish needed of resources and program policies in order to provide opportunities for communication and collaboration among the groups.

Specialized services and therapies must be implemented in order to provide these education services. An early childhood program needs to provide quality standards and guidelines of competencies that will reflect an inclusive early childhood practice for all infants and young children to participate in. Early childhood inclusion should create high expectations for all children regardless of abilities so that each child has the opportunity to reach their full potential. There should be shared expectations from families, teachers and practitioners in order to advocate for high quality of inclusion.

The program needs to develop a philosophy of inclusion and agree on the operation of the program and operate on the same values and beliefs for the program. This philosophy can help shape the practices on inclusion in order to ensure that infants and young children are full members of a community. There needs to be a continued support of services for these children and their families in order to feel like they truly belong in an inclusive program. The CONNECT (2009) program explains how the inclusion laws need to be enforced within all programs that serve children with disabilities.

In accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children ages 3-21 are entitled to a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. It states that children with disabilities should have access to general education curriculum along with learning activities that are also available to their classmates without disabilities. It is required that early intervention services and supports must be provided in a natural environment. The IDEA is a federal law that assures specific rights and safeguards to children with disabilities and their parents, (CONNECT, 2009).

In order for a student to receive special education services the student must be evaluated and identified as a student with a disability in one or more of the following categories and require specialized instruction. Example; Autism, Deaf Blindness, Deafness, Developmental Delay, Emotional Disturbance, Hearing Impairment, Mental Retardation, Multiple Disabilities, Orthopedic Impaired, Traumatic Brain Injury, Visual Impairment, Specific Learning Disability, Speech Learning Disability and Gifted. These children are entitled to receive special educational services with designed instruction, at no cost to the parents.

This is a way to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. Special education is not a place but a service brought to the child through the Individualized Education (IEP). The IEP team members which include parents, educators and others that work together to implement the IEP to insure successful outcomes for students with disabilities. Once the IEP is established it is yet to consider a full inclusion program for the child or a half day program. The term full inclusion refers to the most inclusive environment possible.

Then the consideration of placement in a general education classroom or a natural environment and which access to the typical curriculum. They need to have the same developmental opportunities and be able to participate in typical activities. Not all children with disabilities may be able to succeed with this inclusion but trying every step of the way to include these children is a step toward progress. Trying to collaborate among many stakeholders such as families, practitioners, specialists and administrators is a good start for implementing a high quality inclusion program.

The author Friedman (2005) says that as parents, they need to advocate for their child and become aware of the services the child is eligible for. As a parent, they need to understand their own child’s diagnosis and how it will impact his or her education and what can be done at home. A parent should never be afraid to ask questions to completely understand the process and how it will help their child’s education. Make sure that you are in contact with your child’s teacher and keep an open communication regarding the child.

Have the teacher communicate in writing as to any concerns of behavior or academic problems the child might be having in the classroom. Parents need to encourage their child everyday and devise a system to help with homework and other school projects. (Friedman, 2005). In our childcare center, we have 3 Pre-K classrooms with children from 4 to 5 years old. Each classroom has and enrollment of 20. I decided to make a survey as to how they provide an inclusive classroom. I often go in these classrooms to observe and talk to the children as they are exploring their environment and learning centers.

In classroom #2, they do have a child with sensory issues and provide the child with a sensory objects in which helps her to focus better in the classroom. In classroom #3, they have a child with a speech delay and are currently being provided services with MECA in the evenings at their clinic. These teachers do such a great job to include all the children into the daily activities that someone from the outside would not be able to see which children have a known disability. The data collection that I developed was a Classroom Survey that was distributed to our Pre-K Program classrooms (3) and the enrollment of each classroom is 20 children.

My questions were as follows: 1. How do you provide and inclusive classroom? (Children with various abilities). 2. What kind of modifications would you do to your curriculum? 3. How do you support family involvement or participation? The three classroom surveys were so different in how they include all children and their families. Classroom 1 teacher said for questions #1, that she provides activities and materials designed to meet the needs of all children with or without disabilities. She also adapts or expands activities to accommodate each individual child’s needs.

She went on by saying that she keeps and inviting, nurturing environment within her classroom. Classroom 2 teacher for question #1, said that she does has one child that has sensory issues and during “circle time” to keep her from fidgeting, they provide her with a sensory object to hold which keeps her busy and ready for learning. She also says that they individualize according to abilities of children. Classroom 3 teacher said for question #1 said that through observations and developmental checklist provides the assessment to determine the needs to come up with activities.

This also determines to prepare the environment that helps support children with various abilities. For question 2, the three classroom teachers pretty much answered the same in that they said they do change the curriculum in order to meet the needs of the children and modify the activities in order to meet the needs of the children but do provide for group and individual interactions throughout the classroom. Now for question #3 each classroom does provide some type of family involvement or participation for parents.

In classroom # 1, the teacher states that she has an open door policy that encourages parents to visit and participate in activities and field trips. She also provides parents with her e-mail and phone number so parents can contact her if needed. In classroom #2, the teachers send out a family involvement project to do at home with their children. The parents are also asked to volunteer for fieldtrips, and are also welcomed into the classroom. In classroom #3, the teacher displays a bulletin board with lots of parent information and news.

She also makes it a point to talk to all parents as they pick up their children. She also provides and open door policy for parents. In conclusion, we need to remember that people and or children with disabilities are an important member of our communities. Children in our classrooms need to be included in all aspects of the curriculum and the environment. As children get older and become older some of these children might be our relatives, classmates, friends and or our neighbors. By taking the time to know and respect children as individuals we are preparing them for society.

Make sure to take the time to talk and make them feel comfortable as though they were anyone else on the street. We all can change our attitudes through awareness and education with people with disabilities. We all can expand or friendships by including people with or without a disability. I feel that it is important to have and inclusive program for all children and we need to realize that an inclusive and diverse classrooms are here to stay. My reflection on this action research paper was at first challenging for me because, I wondered if I needed to go with all literature information or actual hands on implementation.

So I then figured that a little of both would make a better research process. I found a way to do observations of the classrooms and to ask questions to Pre-K teachers as how they provide an inclusive classroom. Since the Pre-K program is already at my center, it was easier for me to conduct more observations of actual hands on implementation with all children. Even without having to do the research paper, I often enjoy going into the classroom and interact by sitting, playing and conversing with children throughout the day.