Early intervention news: United States releases Policy Statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs

Date Posted: 10/27/2015

On September 14, 2015, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education affirmed inclusive practice in the United States by issuing a joint policy statement on inclusion in public and private early childhood programs. The policy statement clearly reflects an expectation that all children, regardless of ability or disability, be given access to high-quality, inclusive early childhood programs and highlights the legal and research base specifically for inclusion in early childhood. The statement acknowledges the challenges to adopting inclusive practices and makes specific recommendations to states and local programs and providers for increasing inclusive early learning opportunities for all children. Free resources are listed that support inclusion of children with disabilities in high-quality early education programs. The statement notes, however, that barriers to inclusion include an untrained and understaffed early childhood workforce and a lack of comprehensive services. The statement also acknowledged the lack of disability certification among early childhood service providers and recommended that "instruction should be delivered in consultation with and under the supervision of professionals with specialized training and certifications, such as . . . teachers of the blind and visually impaired, [and] orientation and mobility specialists. . . ." (p. 12). The policy statement encourages states to develop early childhood systems that ensure access to specialized supports, such as those provided by specialists in visual impairment, would result in meaningful inclusion that would encourage and support all children's learning. The statement recommends that early interventionists, special educators, and related service personnel should:

deliver services to children with disabilities in early childhood programs and with support embedded in everyday routines. They should coteach and coach early childhood teachers and providers to encourage inclusive educational environments, as opposed to focusing on working with children in separate settings or pulling children out of their settings for specialized instruction, as a first option. (p. 18)

Strategies to promote access include removal of physical and structural barriers, multiple and varied formats for instruction and learning, and strategies and modifications to promote learning. Strategies to promote participation include embedded instruction and other naturalistic interventions, scaffolding strategies, and tiered models of instruction. The full policy statement is available on the website of the U.S. Department of Education. For more information, contact: U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20202; phone: 800-USA-LEARN (800-872-5327); website: www.ed.gov.

Contact: (Contact information is listed in the news item.)

Join Our Mission

Help us expand our resources for people with vision loss.