Early Childhood Inclusion - Best Practices A best practice can be defined as a method or technique that is generally accepted as superior, compared to the alternatives, because of the positive results that they have achieved. Taking this definition into account, the Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners have designed a framework of competencies, or best practices, for early childhood professionals. Wisconsin Core Competencies for Professionals Working with Young Children and their Families are expectations for what the workforce should know (content) and be able to do (skills) in a respectful and competent manner (attitudes) while working with and/or on behalf of children and their families. These competencies were established to create a common thread of Professional Development expectations across the variety of system partners, including early child care and education. In addition to the Wisconsin Core Competencies, we recommend becoming familiar with and incorporating the DEC Recommended Practices into your day to day routines and activities. The Recommended Practices are based on research, evidence and shared beliefs and are designed to provide guidance to educators, other practitioners, and administrators on how to attain the shared goal of improved development and learning outcomes for young children with and without disabilities and their families. Early childhood inclusion embodies the values, policies, and practices that support the right of every infant and young child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society. If you have concerns or questions about a child's development (physical, social-emotional, or cognitive) contact: Wisconsin First Step Information and Referral Hotline at 1-800-642-STEP (7837) or Child Find. To find more information about screening and early identification, please visit our Collaborating Partners' - Screening/Early Identification: Family Resource page. Principles Of Inclusion Create playful and accessible learning environments (Access) Access means providing the children in your program with a wide range of learning opportunities, activities and environments that accommodate and respond to individual differences. This can be done by: Removing barriers Offering multiple ways to engage in activities Providing different ways for children to express what they know Providing flexible learning opportunities for children who have different ways or styles of learning Using technology, tools, and devices that support a child's play and learning Making individualized modifications and/or adaptations so that all children can participate Examples: Making Access Happen - pdf Environmental Modifications - pdf Routine in a Program (Frank Porter Graham (FPG) CONNECT Modules)- video Curriculum Modification Planning Form - pdf (Blank Form - pdf) Additional Resources: Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Encourage play, learning, and membership (Participation) Participation means using a range of teaching approaches that promote engagement, learning, interactions and a sense of belonging. This can be done by: Designing activities based on a child's interests or abilities Providing opportunities for children to interact and work together with peers Supporting and guiding a child as they learn or acquire a new skill Teaching specific skills to a child in naturally occurring activities and routines and alongside the other children in your program Examples: Promoting young children's participation in activities and routines - pdf Embedded Interventions (FPG CONNECT Modules) - video Embedded Learning Opportunities (Head Start Center for Inclusion) Encouraging Peer Interaction (FPG CONNECT Modules) - video Additional Resources: A Thinking Guide to Inclusive Childcare by Mark Sweet (Inclusion - Many ways to participate - Page 28) Helping parents and providers find information and assistance (Support) Support refers to the broader early childhood system and services that assist parents and providers in supporting the practice of inclusion, as well as the opportunities available for collaborating and for building partnerships. Locating Professional Development (PD) opportunities for you and/or your staff in order to learn about best practices for supporting children with various abilities Collaborating with parents or other service professionals who play important roles in the child's life Requesting training in order to gain information that will help you improve the way you work with the children in your program Examples: Professional Development Opportunities Models of consultation (e.g., Training and Technical Assistance, practice-based coaching, etc.) Family, provider and professional partnerships Additional Resources: The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTAC) Support Resources for Families of Children with Special Needs and Disabilities (Department of Children and Families) Supplying tools to help improve access and participation (Assistive Technology) Assistive technology (AT) is any tool or device that a child uses to perform a task that they may not otherwise be able to do. It may be a simple "low tech" device such as a pencil grip or an expensive "high tech" device such as a iPad or communication device. Many programs have found creative solutions to problems by making inexpensive modifications to toys and utensils using items that are readily available. It's important to remember that before making any modifications or introducing an assistive technology device into a child's daily routines, you should first discuss the decision with the family and/or a qualified professional. The following resources can help providers with assistive technology questions: Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTAC Head Start) Examples: Let's Participate: Assistive Technology Supports - Fact Sheets CONNECT Module 5: Assistive Technology Examples of Assistive Technology Equipment - pdf Examples of Assistive Technology Adaptations - pdf Policy and Position Statements Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services Joint Policy Statements Policy Statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs This policy was released on September 14, 2015 by the Department of Education (DOE) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). It states that "all young children with disabilities should have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs, where they are provided with individualized and appropriate support in meeting high expectations." The policy statement was written with the input of early learning professionals, families, and other early learning stakeholders. Though it focuses on including young children with disabilities, it is the DOE’s and DHHS’s shared vision that all people be meaningfully included in all facets of society throughout the course of their lives. This begins in early childhood programs and continues into schools, places of employment, and the broader community. Policy Statement on Expulsion and Suspension Practices in Early Childhood Settings The DOE and DHHS issued this policy statement to assist States and their public and private local early childhood programs in severely limiting and preventing expulsions and suspensions in early learning settings. Recent data indicates that expulsions and suspensions occur with regularity in preschool settings, a serious concern given the well-established research that indicates how these practices can influence a number of adverse outcomes across development, health, and education. Policy Statement on Family Engagement: From the Early Years to the Early Grades When families and the institutions where children learn partner in meaningful ways, children have more positive attitudes toward school, stay in school longer, have better attendance, and experience more school success. To further this position, the DOE and DHHS released this policy statement on the implementation of effective family engagement practices in early childhood and learning programs. Policy Statement on Supporting the Development of Children who are Dual Language Learners in Early Childhood Programs It is the vision of the DOE and DHHS that all early childhood programs adequately and appropriately serve the diverse children and families that make up this country. Programs should foster their cognitive, linguistic, social emotional, and physical development and prepare them for success in school and beyond. Additional Resources: Joint Interdepartmental Review of All Early Learning Programs for Children Less Than 6 Years of Age U.S. Department of Early Learning Web Site (includes tabs for Inclusion, Families, etc.) Division of Early Childhood (DEC) Position Statements Early Childhood Inclusion: A Joint Position Statement of the DEC and National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) - Spanish Version Promoting the Health, Safety, and Well-Being of Young Children with Disabilities and Developmental Delays Position Statement on Challenging Behavior and Young Children Additional Resource: NAEYC Position Statements and Standards Child Development Gather Information to Get to Know All Children (Screening and Assessment) Developmental screening provides information on how a child's development compares with other children of the same age; thus, developmental screening is used to find children who may have undiagnosed developmental delays. Early identification of developmental disorders is very important to the well-being and success of children and their families. Effective screening requires adequate preparation, communication, and follow-through. It is important to engage parents and families as key sources of information and partners in the process. Before the screening process begins, be sure to explain the reason for screening; define common terminology such as "developmental delay," "disability," and "evaluation," review the goals of screening; and plan the process by informing and involving parents, identifying community resources, and considering possible barriers and solutions.. Assessment is the process of gathering information to increase our understanding and help us make decisions. Developmental assessment is a process that allows us to understand a child's abilities and make decisions about the learning environment, curriculum, and individual goals for each child that will help that child grow to his or her developmental potential. Assessments are important events for families and their children, as assessment results are used to include or exclude children from getting additional help that affects their developmental outcomes. Assessment methods must match the level of mental, social and physical development at each stage of a child's growth. Assessment should take place in the child's natural setting, be developmentally appropriate, and, like screening, be family-centered. If a child's development is not like other children of the same age, the measurement and evaluation procedures used are particularly important in making decisions regarding appropriate accommodations, supports, and interventions. Assessments: Are individualized Provide useful information for interventions and supports Help share information in respectful and useful ways Must meet ethical, legal, and procedural requirements Resources: Wisconsin's Blueprint: A Comprehensive and Aligned System for Early Childhood Screening and Assessment A Thinking Guide to Inclusive Childcare: Getting to Know a Child (pages 10 and 47) A Thinking Guide to Inclusive Childcare: Understanding a Child's Behavior (pages 16 and 48) Professional and Community Resources Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards Child Web Form - pdf Templates: Program Assessment Worksheet - Example -- Blank Template For more information on screening and assessment, contact your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency, or YoungStar Technical Consultant, or visit the Screening and Early Identification information page on the Collaborating Partners website. Plan for the Success of All Children (Goal-Setting) A goal is a statement that tells who will do what, under what conditions, to what extent, and how often. Before we can set goals for children, we need to know their current developmental levels. We also need to discuss goal-setting with the family of the child and other related professionals. Expectations for children must be guided by knowledge of child growth and development, and a goal helps us to be intentional in planning for this growth. The goal is more achievable if it takes into account the child's age, culture, and interests. Goals are also more easily observed if they are written in observable and measurable terms. Sample Goals: Juan will wave goodbye everyday to mom at drop-off time. Tamika will put her blanket in her cubby after rest time at least three times per week. Betsy will independently ask at least one friend to play during center time each day. If a child has a special need or disability, setting functional goals helps the child be more successful in everyday life. It is very important to set these functional goals in collaboration with special needs professionals and the family. Remember to develop SMART goals: S = Specific M = Measurable A = Attainable R = Results-based T = Time-based Child-Focused Practices Creating Individualized Learning Experiences Child-focused practices include the decisions and strategies used to structure and provide learning opportunities for all children. These practices guide how children are taught, when and where the instructional practices are used, and how progress is monitored so that informed decisions can be made. Understanding the process that goes into designing child-focused practices takes time, but evidence and research shows that the impact on a child's development and learning is well worth the time spent. Implementing child-focused practices involves a number of intentional actions on the part of the adult. Adults need to design environments that promote active engagement, learning and participation Adults need to use ongoing data to individualize and adapt practices to meet each child's needs Adults need to use specific practices across environments, activities and routines in order to target outcomes and promote learning and participation It's important to understand that all three of the above statements contain recommendations that should be used together, not individually. Learning how to effectively design and implement child-focused practices may require some training and/or support. As with any new skill, taking the extra time to learn about and practice will help to make things more manageable. Resources: Head Start Center for Inclusion: Individualizing Division of Early Childhood (DEC) Recommended Practices Individualizing care for infants and toddlers (Early Head Start) Individualized Instruction - Head Start Webinar Social and Emotional Support Social and Emotional Development refers to the skills necessary to foster secure attachment with adults, maintain healthy relationships, regulate one's behavior and emotions, and develop a healthy concept of personal identity. Positive social and emotional development provides an important foundation for lifelong development and learning. It helps children navigate new environments, facilitates the development of supportive relationships with peers and adults, and supports their ability to participate in learning activities. Unfortunately, when children lack the necessary social or emotional skills to function appropriately in a group setting, their behaviors become isolating. The children around them become afraid of their actions and reactions, while the adults are often unprepared for how to help the child learn more appropriate ways to regulate their behaviors. In the end, the child is met with a lack of support, skills, and friends; the exact opposite of what they really need. The following list of resources contain information and links that can help you support those children in your program that may be having difficulty regulating their emotions or making friends. Resources to Support Social and Emotional Development Pyramid Model - Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners Zero to Three - Early Connections Last a Lifetime Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) Accentuating the Positive (Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) Teaching Emotional Intelligence in Early Childhood (National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Building Environments that Encourage Positive Behavior (National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Social Emotional Teaching Strategies (TACSEI) National Organizations Center on the Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention (TACSEI) Relationships Partner with Families (Family-Based Practices) Family-based practices offer the resources and supports necessary for families to have the time, energy, knowledge, and skills to give their children learning opportunities and experiences that promote development. Shared Responsibility Families and child care providers have a shared responsibility in making sure each child reaches educational success. Therefore, it is necessary that families and child care providers collaborate as a team in helping to support children. Positive results occur when families and early childhood professionals work together to identify and achieve the outcomes they want for children. Part of working together is sharing information on a regular basis, and as a child care professional, it is important to share information in a way that matches the family's level of understanding. Supports and Resources As you work with families, it is important to provide supports and resources that help to develop and strengthen knowledge, understanding, and positive parenting techniques. These supports should encourage and improve each family's ability to have the time to participate in activities they like to do as a family, including time for extended family and friends. Culturally Competent It is important to remember and understand that families and individual family members have different backgrounds, beliefs, and opinions about what is important and how support for the child should be implemented. Child care providers must be careful not to assume that all families have similar values to other families or to their own. Strength-Based Family-based practices must be built on the strengths and abilities of children and families in order to have best results. Effective family-based practices use these strengths and abilities as the building blocks for gaining new information and skills. Additional Resources: Questions to Ask (for families and providers) ASQ Screening Summary for Parents - Word doc (sample) Partnering with Families on Embedded Interventions - link to a pdf Talking About Children to their Parents A Thinking Guide to Inclusive Childcare, page 36 Communicating with Parents About Their Child A Thinking Guide to Inclusive Childcare, page 49 (Appendix 5). Strategies (cooperation and collaboration strategies for parents and providers) Build Relationships with Children, Families, Specialists and Special Education Professionals (Teaming and Collaboration) Collaboration, or creating a team, among key individuals is a cornerstone for creating high-quality early childhood inclusion, resources and program policies. These key individuals are families, practitioners, specialists, educators, and administrators. Working as a team is needed to promote multiple opportunities for communication and interaction among these groups. Teamwork among child care providers, early childhood educators, and specialists is difficult, but needed to provide quality care for children and services to families. One of the reasons teamwork is important is because of the strong recommendation that services to children with disabilities not only occur in the child's home, but also in other natural learning environments in which the child spends a significant time, such as child care programs. Team members work together to ensure that services and support are provided in the child's natural environment and that regular routines provide the most appropriate opportunities for the child's learning and his or her receiving of the selected services. In this teamwork model, individuals who represent a number of different professions work together to help children with disabilities and their families accomplish important goals. This model requires asking questions, providing suggestions, and working as a team with professionals, therapists, and specialists from Birth to 3, the school district, private organizations, and local disability agencies. For the benefit of the child, child care providers and educators must be open to learning from and sharing information with therapists and specialists who work with the child. Just as important, therapists and specialists must be open to listening to, learning from, and sharing information with child care providers and early childhood educators. Furthermore, this team approach is not limited to professionals, but also includes family members as part of the decision-making process. It is in the best interest of the child for all professionals working with the child to learn from one another, discover each other's skills, help one another, and respect each person's point of view. Strategies and Additional Resources Getting Started: Positive Beginning (What providers and families can do) Communication Strategies to Build Collaboration - pdf Conversation with Examples of Joining and Supporting - video Inviting Parents to Talk A Thinking Guide to Inclusive Childcare, page 6 and page 46 (Appendix 2). Reflect on Your Own Attitudes, Values, and Experience (Self-Reflection) As you work to support children and their families, it is important to reflect on how things are going. As early childhood professionals it is important to demonstrate the ability to reflect and think critically about one's work, through self-assessment and self-reflection. Working with children of varying abilities and diverse backgrounds also requires the ability to hold and reflect on multiple viewpoints. It is important to understand that one's own culture, educational background, experiences, and values have an effect on children and families and the lens through which you view each child and family. Caring for and educating young children is no simple task; self-care and self-advocacy are essential to be an effective educator. It is important to plan one's own professional development and help others plan, reflect, evaluate, and develop professionally. Reflective supervision, in which an early childhood professional and her or his supervisor reflect collaboratively, also enhances growth and professional development. Program Strategies Establish Program Attitudes and Values (Inclusive Program Policy and Philosophy) An agreed-upon definition of inclusion should be used by the program to develop the program's attitude and beliefs on inclusion. Having a positive attitude of inclusion as a part of a broader program mission statement ensures that all staff operate under a similar set of information, values, and beliefs about the best ways to help infants and young children with disabilities and their families. Once this definition has been created, it is important to develop enrollment policies and other rules that support this definition. A program philosophy or beliefs on inclusion should then be used to create activities and rules aimed at ensuring that infants and young children with disabilities and their families are full members of the early childhood community and that children have many opportunities to learn, develop, and cultivate positive relationships. Create high expectations for every child regardless of ability; expect each child to reach his or her full potential. Sharing expectations can lead to the selection of appropriate goals and can support the efforts of families, practitioners, individuals, and organizations as they implement high-quality inclusion. Additional Resources: For tips on developing enrollment policies, see the following document from the University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies: Admissions Policies and Practices that Build Inclusive Child Care Communities (for Providers). For more information on the defining features of inclusion, check out the Frank Porter Graham (FPG) CONNECT Module, Foundations of Inclusion. Create Leadership Support, Buy-in and Follow-Through (Professional Standards, Procedures and Systems Changes) Adequate infrastructure increases the likelihood that quality services are delivered to all children and families. When quality practices are used consistently, it is more likely that children and their families will experience positive outcomes. Everyone participating in the care of children in your program should contribute in some way to the development of your program's professional standards and procedures. Successful and quality early childhood inclusion requires support from all levels of staff, and most importantly, program leadership. The role of leadership is essential in implementing large-scale systematic change. It is important that program directors and administrators understand the importance of early childhood inclusion and work with staff, families, and professionals in creating standards, procedures, and systems within their programs that embrace and promote early childhood inclusion. Systems changes may be required in order to promote or improve your program's inclusive practices and/or the quality of those practices. Systems changes should be based on program assessments and address the needs of all children, staff, and families. These changes could potentially include implementation of family engagement efforts, communication plans and procedures, changes in staff training requirements, evaluation of roles within the organization, allowing paid teacher planning time, or implementation of a formal policy development process. Creating an environment that encourages open and frequent lines of communication between staff and program leadership allows for the opportunity to celebrate successes, no matter how big or small, and to identify areas for improvement and additional support. Resources and Tip Sheets: Where Do We Start? A Thinking Guide to Inclusive Childcare, page 40 Growing Ideas Tip Sheets and Resources for Guiding Early Childhood Practices from the University of Maine. Invest in Staff Learning (Personnel Preparation and Professional Development) Consistent and ongoing staff development gives staff the time to think about what they are doing, as well as have the confidence that they are remembering what is being taught and will be able to use new and effective techniques. Whenever possible, training should be provided to all staff, as well as follow-up assistance with classroom teams, and individual teachers or group leaders. Determine who would get the most out of additional training and education on inclusion and what will work to provide learning opportunities related to inclusion. All key people (administrators, teachers/group leaders, families, and specialists) should be included in selecting training topics. In Wisconsin there are number of resources and training opportunities to support early childhood professionals. These tools and trainings include trainings on the: Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards and the Wisconsin Pyramid Model for Social and Emotional Competence and resources like the Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners website. For other training opportunities related to inclusion and caring for children with special needs and disabilities, visit our Training, Education, and Professional Development page. Additional Resources: Talking with Staff about Children A Thinking Guide to Inclusive Childcare, page 38 Coaching Current Staff A Thinking Guide to Inclusive Childcare, page 39 Possible Coaching Questions (for staff) - A Thinking Guide to Inclusive Childcare, page 50 (Appendix 6). Evaluate Progress (Program Assessment) Program evaluation and assessment should be used as an ongoing management and learning tool to continually improve the quality of your program. Program assessment that is done on a regular basis can greatly improve practices and procedures for children, families, and staff alike. Quality inclusive systems are created with purpose, planned from the start, and evaluated regularly to foster continuous quality improvement. There are many factors that contribute to program quality, including the organization of physical space, appropriate and acceptable supply of materials, teacher abilities, teaching strategies, teamwork among staff and families, and creating individual adjustments for children within daily routines. Regular program evaluation helps programs identify the quality factors that are strengths and the areas in which extra efforts are needed. Also, a number of tools and resources exist which aim to guide programs in implementing high-quality inclusion practices, and regular program evaluation helps programs identify and use these tools and resources to their best advantage. *This list of best practices was compiled using DEC Recommended Practices in Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education, the DEC and NAEYC Joint Position Statement on Early Childhood Inclusion, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute-Quality Inclusive Practices, and NECTAC Quality Indicators of Inclusive Early Childhood Programs/ Practices.