Michelle Diament reports at Disability Scoop:
Federal officials say that all children with disabilities should be able to attend preschool alongside their typically-developing peers.
Nearly four months after requesting public feedback on the issue, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services are jointly issuing guidance to states, school districts and early childhood providers urging them to make a place for kids with special needs.From the joint statement:
Research supports the benefits of inclusion for young children with and without disabilities. Studies have shown that individualized evidence-based strategies for children with disabilities can be implemented successfully in inclusive early childhood programs. 7,8 Children with disabilities, including those with the most significant disabilities and the highest needs, can make significant developmental and learning progress in inclusive settings.9,10,11 Some studies have shown that children with disabilities in inclusive settings experienced greater cognitive and communication development than children with disabilities who were in separate settings, with this being particularly apparent among children with more significant 3 disabilities.12,13 Further, children with disabilities tend to have similar levels of engagement as their typically developing peers, 14,15 and are more likely to practice newly acquired skills in inclusive settings as compared to separate settings. 16 Likewise, research suggests that children’s growth and learning are related to their peers’ skills and the effects are most pronounced for children with disabilities.17 Highquality inclusion that begins early and continues into school likely produces the strongest outcomes. Studies have shown that children with disabilities who spend more time in general education classes tend to be absent fewer days from school and have higher test scores in reading and math than those who spend less time in general education classes, 18, 19 and spending more time in general education classes was related to a higher probability of employment and higher earnings.20 In addition to making learning and achievement gains, children with disabilities in inclusive early childhood programs also demonstrate stronger social-emotional skills than their peers in separate settings. 21 These social benefits are robust and can continue into elementary school and beyond.22 Studies have found that children with disabilities in inclusive classrooms demonstrated more social interactions with peers with and without disabilities, had larger networks of friends, and were more socially competent compared to children in separate settings. 23,24,25, 26, 27 Importantly, while studies indicate that inclusive services produce benefits for children with disabilities, these desired outcomes are achieved only when young children with disabilities are included several days per week in social and learning opportunities with typically developing peers, 28 and specialized instructional strategies are used to meet children’s individual needs.29 Systems supports such as resources for professional development, ongoing coaching and collaboration, and time for communication and planning are critical to ensure that programs and personnel can adequately meet the needs of individual children.30,31 Additionally, the developmental benefits of early childhood inclusion can be lost if children are placed in separate settings in preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school. 32 Inclusion in early childhood settings followed by inclusion in elementary school can sustain these developmental gains.