Inclusion in child care means that all children can attend and benefit from the same child care programs regardless of their diverse abilities. Inclusion removes barriers in order to allow all children, regardless of race, colour or special needs, to fully participate in all aspects of a child care program.
To promote inclusion in your program it is important to:
- Communicate using inclusive language; label things in the room with pictures and words.
- Recognize and celebrate differences and similarities through words and actions.
- Celebrate even the smallest of accomplishments.
- Create an accessible environment. Set up play situations to include children with different strengths and abilities; praising and encouraging each of their unique actions.
- Include a variety of activities, books and toys.
- Create a space that allows for quiet and noisy areas.
- Encourage typically-developing children to play with and support the children with special needs.
- Discover each child’s special interests, strengths and preferences and include them in the program.
- Understand that inclusion is a “team sport” and everyone needs to participate.
- Create partnerships with parents to support inclusion.
- Advocate and empower parents concerning the rights of children.
- Educate yourself on the variety of supports available for special needs children in your community and share them with parents.
For an inclusive program to succeed, the following values must be accepted and implemented:
- Diversity – Accepting diversity means accepting the needs of all children, which come in many forms in child care programs serving newcomer children.
- Individual Needs –The team must collaborate to consider the needs of all the children, providing support for each child to reach their full potential.
- Flexibility – Accept that the daily plan may change. Be proactive to meet the needs of the children.
- All Inclusive Program – Offer a variety of activities that are child directed and teacher directed, in small and large groups, in order to build relationships, awareness and self-esteem.
Newcomer children with special needs benefit from an inclusive, quality care environment because it offers:
- A more varied and responsive environment.
- Opportunities to observe, interact with and imitate children who have acquired higher-level motor, social, language and cognitive skills.
- Opportunities to learn directly from other children. Research suggests that certain skills are learned more easily from other children. Children’s explanations and demonstrations are often closer to the capabilities of the child with special needs than those of adults.
Typically-developing newcomer children also benefit from a quality, inclusive learning environment. They benefit from:
- Peer tutoring – one child helping another. This promotes: social interactions among all children, acceptable play behaviour and enhanced use of materials. Research suggests that the child doing the tutoring and the child being tutored both receive significant benefits from the experience.
- The development of sensitivity – Inclusion helps typically-developing children to understand and accept differences in others. Children who develop sensitivity become increasingly aware of and comfortable with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, “What Do We Mean by Inclusion,” Oct, 2004.
Ryerson University, School of ECE, GRC Staff, April 2009.
The National Centre for Child Care Inclusion, SpeciaLink, 2004-2005. www.specialinkcanada.org