Inclusive Learning Environments for Preschool Children with Special Needs
Part 1: What is Inclusion?
An inclusive learning environment ensures that all children are granted an education with an emphasis of equal importance, along with equal valuing of all students and also staff. Within this non-restricting environment it, “implies that every child should have the resources and support that they need for successful learning”, (Smith, 1998, p.307). Within the inclusive learning environment, involving same-age peers needs also to be treated with importance. Inclusive education gives all children the right to belong to mainstream institutions, with the provision of the appropriate support networks and resource to provide for any possible needs.
Through research about inclusive learning environments, it has been established that many early childhood practices are supportive of inclusive preschool environments in general. Despite this general view, “research suggests that values and practices which reflect ideas of disability as difference do exist in some early childhood services in New Zealand”, (MacArthur, Dight, Purdue, 2000, p.18). Research has been conducted through intensive and detailed observations over a variety of early childhood settings. Some exclusive practices exist which alienate and exclude children with disabilities and their families, which leads to an exclusion from learning opportunities and missing out on social and interactive experiences within the environment. In inclusive environments however teachers, “did not differentiate between children with disabilities and so-called 'normal' children”, (MacArthur et al, 2000, p.23) and have a shared values system with an emphasis on all children belonging.
New Zealand, United States of America and England have a range of excellent legal positions in regard to inclusive preschool education.
Education (Early Childhood Centres) Regulations 1998, No.32a “The licensee of a licensed centre must…enhance children’s learning and development through planning, providing and evaluating a range of appropriate activities that cater for the learning and developmental needs of the children (including children with disabilities) fostering their cognitive, creative, cultural, emotional, physical, and social development, including both individual and group experiences, indoor and outdoors”, (Ministry of Education, 2007, p.23).
Public Law 94-142 established in 1975:
“All students with disabilities will be given a free appropriate education”, (Santrock, 2007, p.456). In 1997 this law amended to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which now provided services to all, regardless of age. 2004 saw the 'No child left behind policy' introduced.
Key points include the recognition of learning disabilities and guarantees all children will be educationally catered for, in accordance to their individual needs.
Education Act 1981:
Local education authorities have a duty to, “ensure that special educational provision is made for pupils who have special educational needs”, (Beaver, Brewster, Jones, Keene, Neaum, & Tallack, 2001, p.635).
In providing an inclusive learning environment for preschool children with special needs, suitable options are available as a means of providing support. There are many community groups or organizations which may specialize in particular areas or special needs and information can be sought from them, along with guidance and knowledge. Teacher aides are available to assist the child more one-on-one. Speech and language therapists are available if the child is showing any particular need in these areas and can assist the child in improving these skills through programmes or special learning opportunities or experiences. Multidisciplinary teams are also available which can be a collaboration of various professionals and/or specialists to work alongside the child’s teachers/family to reach
Part 2: A 4...
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