Early childhood inclusion and early childhood intervention have been inextricably linked for the past 10 years. As a result, there have been documented benefits for children with and without disabilities. As an example, a child's first experience in the early care and education system can determine the degree to which she and her family feel connected to their natural community. When families with children with a disability experience a high degree of belongingness with their children during the early years, it shapes their expectations for the future. And, the benefits continue as children grow up. Students of all abilities who attend inclusive early childhood programs are better equipped to learn, live, and work in inclusive communities throughout their life.
FROM THE CURRENT ISSUE
The availability of high-quality inclusive early care and education programs is a goal for all children, and although there has been progress toward this goal, there is still much to accomplish. Recognizing this need, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services recently released a policy statement to facilitate the adoption and implementation of practices to support the successful inclusion of young children with disabilities in high-quality early childhood programs. The policy proposes that all young children with disabilities have access to inclusive early childhood programs, where they are provided with individualized interventions and supports to reach developmental and behavioral outcomes. The policy statement also contains a comprehensive set of recommendations for state and local early care and education agencies to follow in order to maximize inclusive opportunities for all children. These recommendations address actions that can be taken to ensure that quality early childhood inclusion occurs across policy, practice, and, most importantly, with all members of the early care and education workforce. The systems-level approach described in the statement creates a model of synergy between federal, state, and local programs. I thank the authors of this policy statement for choosing Infants & Young Children (IYC) to disseminate it.
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