Inclusion of Preschoolers with Special Needs

In the 1980s and 1990s, there was an ever-increasing emphasis on educating children with special needs (e.g., learning disabilities) alongside typically developing peers in the ''regular'' classroom rather than in separate, ''special'' classes that enroll only children with disabilities. Although mandated by federal laws and regulations, this move toward inclusion has been controversial. Nevertheless, there has been considerable research documenting the potential benefits of inclusion at all levels of education, including the preschool level. These benefits are not typically seen on standardized measures of achievement but rather on social and cognitive behaviors within the classroom. Moreover, these benefits are seen for typically developing children as well as for children with special needs. Inclusion, however, may not alleviate all the problems of children with special needs. For example, children with cognitive disabilities in inclusive classrooms participate in fewer social interactions with peers and have fewer friends than do typically developing preschoolers in the same classes. It is important to recognize that there is considerable variability among inclusive preschool programs in both their educational quality and the extent to which there is an active attempt to fully include children with special needs in the ''life'' of the classroom. Not surprisingly, educational quality and the nature of the inclusive practices affect the outcomes for preschoolers with special needs.

See also: HEAD START; MONTESSORI METHOD

Bibliography

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Hendrick, Joanne, ed. First Steps toward Teaching the Reggio Way. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1997.

Holloway, Susan. ''Divergent Cultural Models of Child Rearing and Pedagogy in Japanese Preschools.'' In E. Turiel ed., Development and Cultural Change: Reciprocal Processes. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999.

Howes, Carollee. ''Children's Experiences in Center-Based Child Care as a Function of Teacher Background and Adult-Child Ratio.'' Merrill Palmer Quarterly 43 (1997):404-425.

Odom, Samuel. ''Preschool Inclusion: What We Know and Where We Go from Here.'' Topics in Early Childhood Special Education 20 (2000):20-27.

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U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Preprimary Enrollment. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1998.

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Leonard Abbeduto Patti Beth

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