Why Inclusion? • 5
and conferences. What we discovered was that teachers all over the country
are asking the same questions as we are, and, whether they know it or not, are
moving toward the inclusion model themselves.
Teachers share a lot of their questions, challenges, frustrations, and anxi-
eties with us:
• They don’t know what techniques to use with children with unique
• They feel they don’t have enough time, space, or staff to take care of
• They have different viewpoints from families, pediatricians, or even
their own coteachers and administrators.
As teachers make honest and vigorous efforts to support all the children in
their care, these challenges become natural and universal. Teachers often feel
powerless and overwhelmed in their basic, everyday practice. Adding children
with special needs into the mix can intensify these feelings.
How Inclusion Has Evolved
A generation or two ago, teachers may not have encountered some of these
children. It is easy to forget in today’s world that preschool education or group
child care was not commonplace even thirty years ago (National Center for
Education Statistics 2007). Children with differences significant enough to
make routines, socializing, or curriculum very challenging probably didn’t
participate. Others were simply thought of as difficult. In the elementary
schools, children who had identified special needs were segregated into special
education programs. Many of us who came of age more than a decade or so
ago can well remember that separate population of children who attended
class in portable classrooms located at the far end of the play yard and who
interacted mostly with their teachers during recess and lunchtime. Still others
were confined to residential care.
Three things have changed since then:
• The number of children in preschool programs has exploded. Changes in
our economic structure and the roles of families have made early child-
hood education a fundamental element of our society.
• We have learned volumes about child development. Our understanding
of children’s unique learning styles, the relationship between children’s
strengths and their challenges, and the universal dynamics of early
development have radically altered our concept and our expectations of
childhood. Our abilities and approach to identifying and assessing young
children’s challenges has evolved many lifetimes in just a generation.
The number of preschool children who are either assessed with specific
developmental challenges or whose challenges lead teachers and families
to seek additional support has climbed dramatically.
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