In an Executive Summary, the U.S. Department of Education and Health and Human Services (2015) defines inclusion in early childhood programs as “including children with disabilities in early childhood programs together with their peers without disabilities, holding high expectations and intentionally promoting participation in all learning and social activities, facilitated by individualized accommodations, and using evidence-based services and supports to foster their cognitive, communication, physical, behavioral, and social-emotional development; friendships with peers; and sense of belonging. This applies to all young children with disabilities, from those with the mildest disabilities to those with the most significant disabilities.”  When planning your environment, be mindful that some of your children might require some additional considerations to fully participate in all the scheduled activities, routines, and learning experiences.
Partnering with families, some accommodations for children with special needs might include:
- Provide schedules with pictures for children who need visual reminders of the daily sequence of activities.
- Be flexible with the schedule; allow children more time to complete transitions and activities as needed
- Have alternative activities for those children with medical conditions or physical impairments who might have less stamina and tire more easily across the day.
- Pair children up to help each other during transitions.
- Allow for regular breaks.
- Partner with families to coordinate the child’s daily schedule and routines, and to communicate progress.
- Modify chairs to meet children’s needs (you can use tennis balls on the bottom of the chair for noise control or to make the chairs slide more easily)
- Put carpet squares, cushions, or a tape line on the floor to indicate where children should sit or stand
- Modify materials to make them easier for children with motor difficulties to hold and use (e.g., using pencil grips, large knobs)
- Provide specialized equipment (e.g., built-up handled spoons, adaptive scissors) to help children be more independent
Pause to Reflect
Can you see how we might make accommodations for a certain child that might benefit other children or the entire group? All children have needs that are special and we plan for each to help them feel safe, comfortable, and included.