Essential factors for inclusive preschools


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Essential factors for inclusive preschools :: K-12 Daily :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet
Essential factors for inclusive preschools

Essential factors for inclusive preschools

Inclusive programs must have administrators dedicated to the principles inherent in the concept of least restrictive environment, and those leaders need to be tireless in fostering the elements necessary for appropriate inclusion.

Two previous columns in the IDEA Insider dealt with LRE in preschool settings for students with disabilities: one pertaining to the mandate and the second to the change process in your district and community. Today’s article will discuss the components that are critical for building successfully integrated environments.

From a pragmatic perspective the first consideration needs to be the configuration for service delivery. There are essentially five models that will be presented immediately below along with their benefits and deficiencies.[ii]

Home Based: Specialists make routine visits to families to instruct and demonstrate effective instructional practices for SWD. This approach has the advantage of being organic in that it maintains familial involvement in the natural setting. However, it is deficient in that it presents logistical obstacles for interactions with peers without disabilities.

Center-based: Effectively the opposite of the previous model, in that children are instructed at a school site for designated time intervals throughout the week. Enrollment can easily be arranged to involve pupils with and without disabilities. It has a disadvantage, though, since the setting is more artificial than the home and it may prove difficult to transmit useable teaching techniques to family members.

Home-center: A combination of the two previous configurations. It may appear as the best of both worlds but it requires additional staffing and so is more expensive than either of the two formerly described.

Itinerant Teacher Model/Inclusion: Roving teachers trained in special education as well as child development work in general education preschools offering support for integrated SWD along with modeling, advice, and consultation with staff. As far as building a culture for inclusion, this delivery system is most ideal. On the other hand, the resources may be diffused because they will be working in multiple classrooms and, as is true with any consulting relationship, it is difficult to ensure the transfer of expertise.

Targeted Special Centers: Certain populations of SWD may need very structured environments with interventions specially designed to accommodate particular impairments. Such a situation will certainly align with the requirement to provide a free appropriate public education (even in accord with the Endrew decision) but it presents problems as far as maximizing LRE is concerned. If you have the capacity within your community, it will serve your SWD well if you can hand pick students from general education to participate in certain activities as role models.[iii]

As far as the actual instructional configurations are concerned, designs similar to those used in K-12 can be adapted:[iv]

Collaborative: The special education teacher works with two classes to plan, deliver, and facilitate specialized instruction and the accommodations in individualized family service plan. S/he participates in each class an average of one-half the segment each day, according to the needs of the students and class activities, assisting with the incorporation of curricular modifications into each lesson for each student with disabilities. Teachers collect data to modify their work and monitor student progress as may be necessary.

Consultative: Students with disabilities receive their instruction with accommodations or modifications as required in their IFSPs from the general education teacher in a regular education class. The special education department provides direct support by consulting with the general education teacher and the student for a specified period of time each week.

Co-Teaching: The special education teacher collaborates with the general education teacher for the entire class period on a daily basis. The teachers co-plan the instruction, delivery, and assessment of all students in the class. The special education teacher incorporates the specialized instruction for each student with a disability into the activities then delivers the specialized instruction through flexible grouping. The instructors collect data to adapt curriculum and diversify teaching as needed.

No matter what system is utilized, mangers and instructors must be vigilant to ensure that certain quality components remain intact. These critical ingredients are:[v]

Carefully designed learning goals that are individualized for each student (i.e., rudimentary for meaningful IFSPs);

The identification of research-based pedagogical practices with a proven record of helping students with disabilities;

Well-defined supports and accommodations that help both teachers and students;

A system of tools and procedures for assessing and documenting the extent to which SWD are meeting high standards and achieving objectives.


“The mandate for more inclusive settings for preschools,” IDEA-Insider, March 14, 2017: & “Inclusive Preschools - shaping the ideal into the reality,” IDEA-Insider, March 21, 2017:

[ii] The discussion that follows is a synthesis of our experiences with two sources: S.A Raver, “Service Delivery Models for Educating Young Children with Special Needs,” updated July 20, 2010 on & Brian A. Boyd, Seonjin Seo, Diane Lea Ryndak, & Doug Fisher “Inclusive Education for Students with Severe Disabilities in the United States: Effects on Selected Areas of Outcomes,” presented at Inclusive and Supportive Education Congress, International Special Education Conference, Inclusion: Celebrating Diversity? Glasgow, Scotland, August 1-4, 2005:

[iii] For more on FAPE, see “FAPE comes back, bigger than ever,” IDEA-Insider, March 28, 2017:

[iv] Resources for this section follow: Pam Epler,& Rorie Ross, Models for Effective Service Delivery in Special Education Programs, IGI Global, Release Date: December, 2014, © 2015.

John Hopkins, School of Education: New Horizons for Learning, “Inclusion of Students with Special Needs: Systems Change,” @

Paula Kluth: Toward Inclusive Classrooms and Communities, “Special Education is not a Place: Avoiding Pull-Out Services in Inclusive Schools” @; Wend M. Murawwski, “10 Tips for Using Co-Planning Time More Efficiently,” Teaching Exceptional Children 44 (1), March/April 2014: 8-15; “Myths and Facts about Supported Inclusive Education” by Tom Mihail, Ph.D., Department of Teacher Preparation, College of Education, Purdue University Calumet, @; Tricia Niez, “Why Teacher Networks (Can) Work,” Phi Delta Kappan: The Professional Journal for Education 88 (8), April 2007: 605-610.

[v] Adapted from “Success in the General Education Curriculum,” by the National Center for Learning Disabilities.


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