“Inclusion in early childhood programs refers to including children with disabilities in early childhood programs, together with their peers without disabilities; holding high expectations and intentionally promoting participation in all learning and social activities, facilitated by individualized accommodations; and using evidence-based services and supports to foster their development (cognitive, language, communication, physical, behavioral, and social-emotional), friendships with peers, and sense of belonging. This applies to all young children with disabilities, from those with the mildest disabilities, to those with the most significant disabilities.” (HHS/DOE policy statement)

Inclusion of young children with disabilities from birth through age 5 in early learning settings is associated with positive social outcomes for all children when teachers plan and encourage frequent social interactions between children with disabilities and their peers. We will share resources to support preschool teachers in their efforts to provide, plan for, and promote meaningful social interactions between children in inclusive classrooms.

DEC/NAEYC Joint Statement on Inclusion: Early childhood inclusion was defined by ajoint position statementof the Division for Early Childhood and the National Association for the Education of Young Children in 2009.

HHS/DOE Joint Policy Statement: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Education released an updated joint policy statement in November of 2023 that builds upon the original 2015 statement. The 2023 Policy Statement on the Inclusion of Children in Early Childhood Programs provides a summary of research, identifies opportunities to improve inclusion, and offers recommendations for state and local action. In addition, it links to a large number of resources that can be used to improve inclusion.

The ABC’s of Inclusion

Dr. Phil Strain, Kennedy Endowed Chair and director of the Positive Early Learning Experiences (PELE) Center at the University of Denver shares the ABC’s of Inclusion. These key insights are distilled from over 40 years of research on high quality inclusion for children with disabilities.

Now let’s look at why we focus on quality inclusion as part of the Pyramid Model.

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