8 • Chapter 1
• All children have strengths and challenges.
• The definitions of typical and atypical are important in some ways, but
they are also artificial in some ways.
• All children and families deserve to be part of the same community.
• We are all part of an interdependent community.
For us, the ideas above suggest that all programs are inclusion programs.
Many early childhood programs feel uneasy about including children
with special needs. But it is becoming clearer each year that we really have no
choice. It is estimated that up to 17 percent of children in the United States
have developmental disabilities (Boyle, Decoufle and Yeargin-Allsopp 1994).
They may qualify for services through their local school district’s early inter-
vention programs or through other provider networks. They may someday
have an IEP or IFSP, which defines specific developmental, behavioral, or
educational goals to address specific challenges. Individualized Education
Programs are discussed in more detail on page 46 of chapter 4. Many more
children have subtler challenges that will not result in a formal assessment or
a plan for therapeutic intervention but that still can make for a hard fit with
the classroom or group setting.
If mainstream early childhood programs cannot serve children with chal-
lenges, what will? Even if a therapeutic program were the right fit for all these
children—and we argue in this book that it is not—the number of children
with challenges far exceeds space in special settings. This leads us to the con-
clusion that inspired us to write this book: if all programs are inclusion pro-
grams, then all teachers are inclusion teachers.
Why would we want to make our programs inclusive if we didn’t have to?
One of the most profound things we have learned about inclusion is that it is
not just a response to challenges. Inclusion, at its best, is a model that enriches
every aspect of a program, from the experience of the child, to the skills of the
teacher, to the harmony and diversity of the school community. Not only are
there multiple benefits to inclusion, but there are also many reasons why we
want our programs to be inclusion programs.
Children Benefit from Inclusion
Inclusive programs are not based just on the belief that children with chal-
lenges should be part of a mainstream program. Inclusive programs operate
on the belief that all children have strengths and challenges and are fundamen-
tally the same kind of people. As we begin to look at all children through this
lens—helping them use their strengths to address their own challenges—we
begin to see all children in a more fully defined way. This allows us to support
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