Including preschoolers with disabilities in early childhood programs is a new focus of the U.S. Department of Education. Guidelines for early childhood providers, school districts, and states are now being issued jointly by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services which encourage them to enable children with disabilities attend preschools alongside typically developing peers.
“As our country continues to move forward on the critical task of expanding access to high-quality early learning programs for all children, we must do everything we can to ensure that children with disabilities are part of that,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
The most recent figures from 2013 show that over half the preschoolers with special needs received special education services in segregated settings, apart from children with normal developmental abilities. That statistic has not changed much over 30 years. Those settings are often the first option for children with disabilities, especially those who have significant needs.
According to the guidance released by the agencies, “It is the departments’ position that all young children with disabilities should have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs, where they are provided with individualized and appropriate support in meeting high expectations”.