Elements of Inclusive Education for Early Childhood Programs

Portrait of cute little children playing with construction blocks at desk in kindergarten

High quality early childhood programs form the foundation for high quality inclusive programs from which all children benefit. According the The Early Childhood Research Institute on Inclusion (ECRII), parents of children without disabilities participating in inclusive programs report positive changes in their children’s confidence, self-esteem, and understanding of diversity.

The following elements of inclusive education for early childhood programs list a selection of effective practices that should be in place to provide high-quality services for all students (Source: Stetson & Associates, Inc.).

Element 1. Environment, Engagement and Inclusion

  • The classroom is divided into well-defined areas with adequate workspace for individual students, and large/small groups of students.
  • There is a wide variety of real and representational materials reflecting student interests, learning levels, and cultures. Materials/shelves are labeled and can be accessed by students.
  • All students follow classroom routines without dependence upon adults. Transition signals are given and students respond to engage in transition routines.
  • Students are observed independently moving their schedule icons and schedule task strips to reflect current activities. Schedules are portable and accompany students to different locations as appropriate.
  • Throughout the daily routine there’s a balance of large/small group and individual instruction as well as active/outdoor and reflective/indoor activities.
  • Students are observed actively engaged with materials, peers, and adults the majority of the time throughout the day.
  • All students receive instruction with their peers according to their individual strengths and needs based on the least restrictive curriculum and environment.
  • General education and special education service providers collaboratively plan the implementation of services within the least restrictive environment based on individual student strengths and needs.

Element 2. Communication and Technology Support

  • A weekly schedule designates both staff/student locations and activities are visible and consistently followed.
  • All students observed using an individual daily schedule to direct to classroom activity/location without adult assistance.
  • Students are observed using visually based work systems, which are individualized per student learner characteristics, moving from left to right and from top to bottom.
  • Students are observed using their individual work system that visually tells them what work to do, how much work, when they are finished, and what to do next.
  • Students are observed using individual schedules and work systems in other settings outside of the classroom.
  • Communication systems are used by students throughout their daily routine that support engagement, choice, and language with peers and adults.

Element 3. Behavioral Support and Social Skills

  • Environmental accommodations that prevent or minimize problematic behavioral patterns are observed such as: boundary markers, visual schedules, labeling, choice/communication boards, transition/activity completion signals, etc.
  • All team members contribute to functional behavioral assessment that results in holistic interventions used to decrease challenging behavior patterns.
  • All service providers implement the least intrusive positive behavior supports to decrease the target behavior and increase the replacement behavior.
  • Instruction is observed to support student acquisition of social skills as students use these skills with adults and peers for a range of occasions/environments.


Download the Early Childhood Effective Practices Observation Tool Scoring Rubric

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Maria August 19, 2016

    Will like to gert more information and creat a connection between Costa Rica and you.

    • Frances Stetson September 30, 2016

      Dear Maria,
      The Inclusive Schools Network is eager to create partnerships and to feature inclusive stories, successes and challenges from countries around the globe. Please let us know what you have in mind and we will let you know what options we have now and we can think together what might be possible in the future!

      Thank you for your interest! We look forward to hearing from you!

      Frances Stetson, Sponsor,
      Inclusive Schools Network
      President, Stetson and Associates, Inc.

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