10 • Chapter 1 All Communities Benefit from Inclusion The old model of regular and special education implied that challenging behavior could disqualify a child from membership in a class or school. It set up a two-tiered society of children who could succeed under “normal” cir- cumstances and children who needed to be segregated. The old model fostered division and judgment and placed the responsibility for school and social suc- cess on the child. Children who can succeed in “typical” programs never get to know their peers with unique needs and profiles. They view them with increas- ing suspicion. The current concern in educational circles over bullying is tied to this view of some children as entitled and others as burdens. It is also tied to the opposite view, which sees some children as victims and others as villains. An inclusive model turns the lens around. Schools, families, and com- munities take the responsibility for a child’s success. Challenges are viewed as sources of connection rather than division. The program, to at least some extent, adapts to the individual and the specific group, rather than the other way around. When a child struggles, the adults search for ways that foster suc- cess rather than for reasons why the child fails. In this model, inclusion suggests a community where everyone is com- mitted to supporting each other. Challenges and struggle become catalysts for improving the community together, rather than barriers that need to be removed from the community. The community becomes a place for sharing the difficult sides of life openly, a place for cooperative problem solving. The world is no longer divided into typical and atypical, winners and losers, bul- lies and victims. Think of what future generations of children can accomplish in a community in which they learn about all kinds of people in detail and build insight, confidence, and skill for supporting each other. Simply put, in an inclusive setting, all kinds of children can befriend each other. • • • We find that many teachers have already discovered these benefits themselves and that those who haven’t can readily agree to them. But next, they often ask, how do you become an inclusion teacher? How do you develop a toolbox of techniques to serve children with autism, or Down syndrome, or cerebral palsy? How can you transform your physical space to accommodate special needs? How can you find the time in an already overloaded profession to gain specialized, therapeutic expertise? Our answer to these questions is the reason for this book and its main topic: the skills and viewpoints necessary to successfully include all children come from basic best preschool practices. You already possess the foundation for becoming an inclusion teacher or for developing an inclusion program. A relationship-based approach—one in which teachers know all their students as individuals and are dedicated to finding unique ways for individuals to thrive in their programs—is the beginning of successful inclusion. For these reasons, we also strongly believe that early childhood programs, in which children have the IOIATextFINAL.indd 10 12/14/09 3:39:35 PM