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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM ON PHONE OR TABLET Program Philosophies of Inclusion The DEC-NAEYC position statement on inclusion gives early childhood educators a frame- work for creating a program philosophy around inclusion. It guides programs to create philosophies that can ensure that “practitioners and staff operate under a similar set of assumptions, values, and beliefs about the most effective ways to support infants and young children with disabilities and their families. A program philosophy on inclusion should be used to shape practices aimed at ensuring that infants and young children with disabilities and their families are full members . . . and have multiple opportunities to learn, develop, and form positive relationships” (DEC/NAEYC 2009). Following are some guidelines to consider when establishing a program philosophy: •• A written philosophy around inclusion should be part of both the family handbook and the materials on staff expectations. •• Written policies around inclusion should align with a program’s mission and values state- ment and should reinforce the importance of building a community of respect. Staff members feel supported when they know that the mission of their organization includes a commitment to values that respect the young children and families with whom they work. •• If staff members have clear expectations of their role in working with all children, fewer issues will arise when children are identified as having developmental concerns or when new children with assessed disabilities are placed in their classrooms. •• A written philosophy or policy on inclusion can help prevent confusion among the staff about enrollment of young children with disabilities or expulsion of children currently enrolled. •• Any policy that seems to screen out children with disabilities needs to be carefully examined and rewritten in a way that does not discriminate but creates an atmosphere of acceptance (US DOJ 1997). •• Informing families upon enrollment about a program’s policy of including all children can set the tone for a trusting and respectful relationship. •• An inclusion policy that articulates the program’s philosophy is also helpful to families of children with and without disabilities if issues around a child’s behavior or development arise after enrollment. The policy can be an effective operational tool for early childhood programs. Practical Application: Making Inclusion Work Young children have a wonderful ability to adapt and adjust to one another as they learn and play together. For children with special needs, their worlds are opened up and broad- ened through experiences with other children in natural settings. A natural setting is a typical setting for any child at a given age without a disability. The goal of inclusion is to COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 3