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.