Projects that formed the Circle of Inclusion

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By the fall of 1992, the ground work for inclusive program models within several communities had been laid. Community early childhood program personnel, early childhood special education school district staff, families, and university personnel within these communities worked collaboratively to develop and submit state grants to support efforts to formally restructure part of the early childhood service delivery systems. Three collaborative University of Kansas and local school district projects were funded in Fall, 1992, as three year innovative projects through Title VI-B Special Projects, Kansas State Board of Education. All three projects implemented programs of inclusive early childhood special education services.

Each project involved the restructuring of the roles of school district or special education cooperative ECSE teachers and, to a considerable extent, related service staff. The three projects also involved a restructuring of the service delivery system for children three through five within each project area. Each project was grounded on the belief that the approach to early childhood special education must meet standards of best practice as well as reflect the unique characteristics of the community.

Each project shared a commitment to the following recommended practices for early childhood inclusive services:

  • A shared value base amongst professionals and parents.
  • Participation by community early childhood programs.
  • Educational program linked with child care services.
  • Program options or approaches to placement.
  • Supported placement via a paraprofessional as appropriate.
  • The concept of natural proportions guiding placements.
  • Teaming based on functional tasks.
  • Joint Early Childhood and Early Childhood Special Education program staff inservice education.
  • A family guided approach.
  • Collaborative transition planning and implementation.
  • Systematic program expansion.
  • Stated program outcomes.

Brief Description of Each Project

The Project LIM (Lawrence Inclusion Model), implemented in Lawrence, Kansas, offered inclusive services in community preschools and involved children with a full range of delays and disabilities (i.e. mild to severe/profound). Five preschools held openings specifically for children with disabilities. Two of these programs employed an early childhood special education teacher and related services personnel (such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language, social work, psychology). Support services were delivered on site by itinerant related service providers. In addition to the five programs that held placements, early childhood special education services were also provided to those children who were identified as eligible for services and already enrolled in a community program.

Project WIN (Wyandotte Cooperative Inclusion Network) implemented in Kansas City, Kansas, was designed to support the inclusion of children with severe and profound multiple disabilities and children with autism as members of inclusive community preschools and child care programs. Participating programs include: (a) community service centers, established via interagency cooperative to meet the needs of families living in urban settings, (b) Head Start programs, (c) district supported four-year-old programs based in elementary schools, and (d) private community programs.

PITT (Project Integration, Training, and Transition) was designed to meet the need of a rural area for the provision of early childhood special education services within the least restrictive environment (LRE) through the development of family-guided, community-based, early childhood service options. Three special education cooperatives serving school districts participated. Service delivery settings included child care centers, Head Start, community preschools, and family child care homes. A special emphasis was placed on the implementation of family-guided transition from infant-toddler to preschool services and personnel training information sharing, and resource development.

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