What is inclusion?
Based upon guidance given in the Joint Policy Statement Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs released by the US Departments of Human Services and Education, the Arkansas Early Childhood Special Education section expects services to be provided in the child’s least restrictive environment (LRE). LRE means that, to the maximum extent possible, a child with disabilities is educated with children who do not have disabilities. This includes embracing the concept of inclusion. According to A Joint Position Statement of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children:
“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 a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society. The desired results of inclusive experiences for children with and without disabilities and their families include a sense of belonging and membership, positive social relationships and friendships, and development and learning to reach their full potential. The defining features of inclusion that can be used to identify high quality early childhood programs and services are access, participation, and supports.”
The Arkansas Early Childhood Special Education section is currently working in collaboration with the First Connections (birth – 3) program, the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) and a group of stakeholders to analyze and develop guidance for inclusion in the state. The purpose of the Inclusion Cohort is to provide technical assistance to a small number of state cross-sector leadership teams to build state capacity to assess, plan, and implement state level strategies to increase and improve high-quality inclusion.
The Arkansas Department of Education, Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE-OSE) and University of Denver Positive Early Learning Experiences Project have created a partnership to develop and expand the practice of high-quality early childhood inclusion in chosen preschool classrooms in Arkansas.
This project has an intentional focus on inclusive practices ensuring students who are IEP eligible, as well as those do not, have meaningful access to high quality preschool experiences. Participating classrooms will be provided with professional learning experiences regarding evidence based inclusionary practices and coaching to support implementation. By submitting an application, the regular preschool program and the early childhood special education program providing services for children with IEPs agree to implement the practices with fidelity, attend scheduled meetings and promote the inclusion of ALL preschool-aged children in the program.
Cohort 1 Programs (2021-2023)
- Harrison Preschool and Early Childhood Special Education Program in Harrison, Arkansas
- Russellville School District Preschool Program and Early Childhood Special Education Program in Russellville, Arkansas
Cohort 2 Programs (2022-2024)
- Greene County Tech Preschool and Early Childhood Special Education Program in Paragould, Arkansas
- Heber Springs Panther Cubhouse in Heber Springs, Arkansas, with the support of Arch Ford Cooperative in Plumerville, Arkansas
For more information, please contact:
Danita Pitts, Early Childhood 619 Program Coordinator
Arkansas Department of Education
Division of Elementary and Secondary Education
1401 West Capitol Avenue, Suite 450
Little Rock, AR 72201