4 • Chapter 1 inclusion model, mostly because we wanted to be able to make our program work for a few specific children at a time. At first, we felt ill-equipped and nervous about the idea. There is one moment in our evolution as an inclusion program that we like to share with teachers who are feeling unsure themselves about their skills with children’s challenges. About fifteen years ago, a therapist whose child had attended our school recommended that we admit one of her clients, a three- year-old boy with autism. She was confident that our approach to understand- ing and supporting each child as an individual could work for him. A graduate psychology student was providing in-home support for the boy’s family and could come to class with him. This therapist, the graduate support teacher, and the teachers in our pro- gram who would be working with this child sat down before he began our program to make a plan. We asked for some specific instructions on how to work with children with autism in a preschool classroom. After an awkward silence, our colleagues from the world of therapy admitted that they had been counting on us to figure it out. Our first reaction to this was panic—there’s no blueprint! But since we trusted our colleagues’ trust in us, we decided to give it a try. We would just do what we knew how to do and see what happened. It didn’t turn out to be easy or magical, and we certainly didn’t cure our young client of autism. But he had a more successful experience in our program than we would have imagined at the start. And so that initial realization—there’s no one correct blueprint— turned out to be very important. It gave us the freedom to learn that regular teachers and care providers can use their basic skills to learn how to serve children with challenges. It is important here to make clear that inclusion can mean many different things to many different people. Since inclusion began as an extension of the early intervention movement in special education, it has grown in many differ- ent directions. It is also important to acknowledge that different children and families have had different levels of success in inclusion programs. Some chil- dren really do need specialized settings. And many researchers and educators who helped develop inclusion programs have rightly pointed out that teachers must learn enough basic skills to do it right (Odom 2000). Unlike many of the people in the field before us, we did not start out as a special education program. We are part of the wave of inclusion that started at the other end of the spectrum—regular early childhood educators trying to keep learning enough to serve one child at a time. As such, we won’t try to describe the one and only correct model of inclusion or to take in all the ideas and practices in the field. What we can offer to you (and, we hope, to the field of early childhood education in general) is a practitioner-based approach to inclusion that we developed in our classrooms. We were lucky to have sup- port and training along the way. We share this book with you because what we do has worked for almost all the children we have known, not because we developed it in a university setting or proved it with research studies. And that is exactly why we think it can work for you. As our confidence with inclusion grew, we began to share some of our experiences with fellow teachers—informally at first, then later in workshops IOIATextFINAL.indd 4 12/14/09 3:39:34 PM