All young children with disabilities should have access to high-quality preschool programs, and states and local programs both have a significant role to play in making that happen, says guidance on creating inclusive preschool programs released Sept. 14 by the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Health of Health and Human Services.
The two departments announced earlier this year that they planned to release a joint statement on inclusive preschools and were soliciting comments from the public on the topic. At that time, the departments said that too often, young children with disabilities are provided preschool options that separate them from their typically developing peers, even though research suggests that inclusive settings are particularly helpful for such students.
Recommendations to states in the guidance include:
- Create a state-level interagency task force and plan for inclusion;
- Ensure that quality-rating systems for early-childhood programs support inclusive practices;
- Create a professional development system that meaningfully includes education of young children with disabilities; and
- Raise public awareness of the importance of inclusion.
Early-childhood providers were provided a separate set of recommendations, which include:
- Partner with families on advocacy efforts and policy development;
- Ensure access to specialized supports;
- Develop formal collaboration with community partners; and,
- Strengthen collaboration among staff members to better support inclusion.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the guidance and accompanying resources at the department’s 6th annual back-to-school bus tour event, which started Monday in Kansas City, Mo. This year is also full of meaningful anniversaries related to the topic: 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the 40th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the 50th anniversary of Head Start.
Photo: Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits Woodland Early Learning Center in Kansas City, Mo., Sept. 14 as part of a back-to-school bus tour. Courtesy Kansas City Schools.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.