In the Sun Prairie Area School District, early childhood educators are focusing on the meaningful inclusion of children with disabilities in programs with their typically-developing peers. A new video showcases this work with a moving message that will help anyone understand the vision of inclusive environments.
The piece profiles the Sun Prairie Area School District, where early inclusion is the norm-- in community and school-based settings, as well as Head Start.
Watching the emotion of the parents interviewed and the smiles of the children, it is clear that all students, educators, and therapists belong on the same team.
“We can all talk about this stuff, but what does it really look like in practice?” says Jenny Giles, early childhood special education consultant at the DPI. Giles suggests watching the six-minute mini-documentary for signs that the children are engaged and feel a sense of belonging, as well as for practices like embedded services and peer-to-peer interaction.
When Giles has asked early viewers if they can pick out the special service providers, or the children with disabilities, they generally can’t. “And that’s just it! That’s inclusion!” she says.
Parent Hollie Whitney says, in the video, that she used to worry how school would be for her son. “Would he fit in? Would he get picked on? … But he has become quite the popular guy at school… He comes in the class, and I can’t tell you how many kids hug him. He has true friendships, true relationships in class.”
Inclusive environments have the potential to pay enormous dividends for children with and without disabilities, as well as families and educators. We encourage you to use the six-minute film with your colleagues and community.