AUTHOR: Alice Parker

What is Inclusive Preschool Education?

Inclusive education is a system in which students with special needs can attend school with their typically developing peers. An inclusive preschool system integrates special education and related services into all aspects of its program. This makes it possible to address the needs of both special needs and typically developing children.

Teachers in an inclusive preschool should be both general education teachers and special education teachers working together with any paraprofessionals to support the unique learning needs of all students.

Teaching staffs in inclusive preschool programs must have knowledge of typical and atypical development and methods of instruction that reach all students. To both serve and advocate for students, they must also understand the importance of the relationships among children, family members, and staff. The vision for inclusive preschool is to have every child prepared to succeed in school as well as in life later on.

What should you look for in a quality inclusive preschool setting?

  • Teachers work together to provide for the needs of all students.
  • Parents, general education and special education teachers, and service providers work together to determine the students’ needs.
  • Program practices are research-based and culturally, linguistically, and developmentally appropriate.
  • Children have opportunities to work and play with each other throughout the school day.
  • There is a focus on the whole child.
  • The school provides a welcoming and ongoing relationship with the families, focusing on their needs.
  • There is a collaboration and partnership with families and communities.
  • The preschool is accountable for the improved outcomes for all students.

How can teachers encourage success in an inclusive school setting?

  • Aim for a low student-to-adult ratio and a ratio of typically developing to special needs students that is about eight to two.
  • Support general preschool and special education collaboration.
  • Seek parents as partners.
  • Provide support for staff development and parent education.
  • Ensure that teachers plan activities with an understanding of developmentally appropriate outcomes.
  • Make sure all adults participate or are briefed on proposed development outcomes and measures.
  • Schedule meetings regularly to look at data. This can help determine whether teachers are helping to meet goals and employing strategies that are research-based and culturally, linguistically, and developmentally appropriate.
  • Ensure individuals discuss issues or concerns openly and with a focus on solutions.
  • Provide time for adult collaboration, planning, and communication.