In 2009 The National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Division for Early Childhood issued a joint statement in support of inclusion. The position statement highlights three defining features of inclusion: access, participation, and supports. However, turning these inclusion features into inclusion practices can be challenging for early childhood educators and service providers, especially for providers without easy access to specialists or other professionals.
Fortunately, the Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children with support from the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) has created a set of research-backed recommended practices that can assist providers in creating high-quality inclusive programs. These practices cover eight domains: assessment, environment, family, instruction, interaction, leadership, teaming, and transition. Within each domain, specific practices are identified and examples of each practice are provided.
To assist providers in implementing these practices, ECTA offers free checklists and practice guides for providers and for families. For example, the Environmental Adaptations Checklist can guide providers in promoting child physical access to activities and adapting the learning environment to support participation for all children. These tools can assist providers in self-assessing which practices are already in place and working well and which practices may be good to target for improvement.
In addition to these online resources, providers should get to know the families in their centers and programs. Learning about each family’s values, priorities, and needs is the foundation for creating inclusive programs where each child is a valued member of the learning community.
To learn more about including children with autism in early education settings, check out the “Welcome to the Group: Inclusion of Young Children with Autism,” webinar in the Family Development Early Intervention series, “Sunrise to Sunset: Supporting Children with Autism Through Their Day.” In this webinar, we describe what inclusion is, the benefits of inclusion, and strategies for modifying the social and physical environment to support the inclusion of young children with autism.