Features of Our Inclusive Model

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Feature 1: Shared value base and vision.
It is our belief that the establishment of the values to which a very diverse group of individuals ascribe make it possible to transcend a number of the differences in agency functions and procedures, as well as participating programs' approaches to early childhood education. These values and the establishment of a shared vision of inclusive early childhood education and child care services for all young children and their families have provided the impetus to continue the program over a number of years.

Feature 2: Community early childhood program participation. High quality early childhood programs in the community participate by holding placements for young children with disabilities. In brief, these programs should be selected because of interest, overall program quality, and the availability of half day preschool sessions and/or full day child care services.

Feature 3: Linkage to child care services. Models of inclusive services must support families by providing child care options in the community early childhood programs in which the children are participating. The need for child care is intensified for young children with severe disabilities because of the reluctance of child care programs or individual home care providers have historically demonstrated to serving children with complex disabilities.

Feature 4: High quality, child-centered programs. A child-centered approach (Bredekamp, 1991) offers children with severe disabilities opportunities to initiate and learn through active participation in their environment. As Philip Safford (1989) points out, there is inherent value in good early childhood practices for all children and considerable benefit can derive from using child specific adaptations and interventions with teaching approaches appropriate to all children. Characteristics of child-oriented programs that support active learning include: (a) opportunities to practice developmental tasks; (b) teachers who understand developmental needs and characteristics of the children; (c) a curriculum that furthers cognitive development via concrete experiences; and (d) physical settings designed to encourage independence and motivate involvement (Day & Drake, 1986).

Feature 5: Facilitator for supported placement. When children with severe disabilities attend a mainstream community program an additional classroom assistant has often been provided for the classroom. This individual has been employed as a paraeducator and we have called the role " facilitator" because this person facilitates the process of the inclusion. The presence of an facilitator or an additional paraeduator should support the full membership of the child and not interfere with that process. Extensive preparation for this role is essential!

Feature 6: Placement based on natural proportion guidelines. Children are placed in classrooms based on natural population proportions to the extent possible. The natural proportion principle is based on realistic population groups and therefore limits the number of children with the special needs to a natural distribution. A predominance of children with disabilities or a 50% membership is not in keeping with natural population proportions. Consequently, there would generally only be one or two children with the most significant disabilities who would be members of a particular classroom. This allows peers and adults in the setting to more naturally support the presence of the child with significant disabilities and retains the normalizing context of the environment.

Feature 7: Establishment of teams based on functional tasks. Another noteworthy feature is the establishment of functional teams with clear tasks. For example, there are occasional community program directors and district administrator meetings to clarify management issues and plan long range goals. There are core team meetings for each child, which generally include the ECSE teacher, the EC teacher, the child's parents, and the facilitator and/or classroom assistants. There are also full interdisciplinary team meetings. The core team meets weekly, and the whole team generally meets at least monthly about the children they are serving. Additionally there are biweekly to monthly staff meetings to ensure communication and planning occurs on a routine basis. Finally, a community-wide interagency human services or early childhood advisory council should review and discuss the inclusive program services at least yearly.

Feature 8: An integrated of transdisciplinary team approach and naturally embedded goals and objectives. All special education personnel, including related services personnel, practice an integrated team approach which involves collaborative assessment and planning and role release in the delivery of services (Campbell, 1987; Dunn, 1991).Children's goals and objectives are discipline free, and based on the teams consensus under the guidance of the family. These goals and objectives are based on the strengths of the child and represent the child - not the disciplines of individuals serving the child. Objectives are embedded in natural routines and activities of the home, center and classroom throughout the day.

Feature 9: Joint, ongoing EC and ECSE staff inservice education. In order to foster understanding and cooperation the inservice education component merges community program, agency and school district personnel. Staff education programs are scheduled throughout the year and are open to parents!.

Feature 10: Family-Focused approach. Programs philosophically embrace family-guided decision making, and particular attention is paid to family issues, needs, and empowerment concerning their child's participation in an inclusive early childhood program.

Feature 11: Stated outcomes for the model. Another important feature that emerged from our original model is using our stated value base to envision outcomes and then stating the outcomes explicitly. Program outcome statements can include any indicators of success that can be measured or documented, such as the number of community programs participating, the number of children receiving inclusive services, the number of staff trained for roles in inclusive settings, etc.

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