Feds Call For Greater Inclusion In Preschools
The Obama administration wants to see more kids with disabilities — no matter how significant — participating in classrooms alongside their typically-developing peers.
The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services are jointly seeking public comment this week on a draft policy statement encouraging greater inclusion for young children with disabilities.
While the majority of preschoolers with disabilities attended general early childhood programs as of 2013, more than half of these children received their special education and related services in segregated environments, the Education Department said.
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Four decades after the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Obama administration is calling the current state of affairs “troubling” and is looking for change.
“Children with disabilities and their families continue to face significant barriers to accessing inclusive high-quality early childhood programs and too many preschool children with disabilities continue to receive special education services in separate settings,” reads the statement which is up for public comment through Friday.
Specifically, the federal agencies are urging states to create task forces focused on early childhood inclusion, implement policies and allocate funding to facilitate such programs and set and track goals for expanding inclusive learning opportunities.
Meanwhile, early childhood providers are encouraged to enhance professional development, work with families and ensure specialized supports are available, among other steps, to increase inclusion.
HHS and the Education Department are soliciting feedback before issuing a final version aimed at sparking change at the state and local level. Though the statement itself will not be legally binding, it references requirements under IDEA, the Education Department said.
“Though this policy statement focuses on including young children with disabilities, it is our shared vision that all Americans be meaningfully included in all facets of society throughout the life course. This begins in early childhood programs and continues into schools, places of employment and the broader community,” the agencies said.