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 Inclusion? 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 IOIATextFINAL.indd 8 12/14/09 3:39:35 PM