What is inclusion?
Inclusive childcare, preschool and school programs incorporate children with disabilities into the mainstream program. Each child, regardless of ability/disability is encouraged to actively participate in all activities, routines and play experiences offered by the chosen curriculum. Focus is on the strengths of each child, while also addressing the specific needs of the child with disabilities based his/her impairment. All children are viewed as deserving a quality of life in which they can have opportunities to learn and feel safe, loved and valued. Each child may make a different contribution depending on their abilities, and these are considered equally important.
Benefits of inclusion
For typically developing children
An inclusive child care program is an opportunity for children to learn about respect for difference, and to develop new forms of communication, empathy, and friendship. Typically developing children can learn to respond to others’ needs and take on a teaching/helping role. Inclusive education at an early age would teach children to be sensitive to others needs and would lead to positive relationships for the future. Children are naturally curious about what makes people different from themselves, and having an inclusive program is an opportunity for children to ask questions, explore differences and establish similarities.
For children with disabilities
An inclusive program provides learning opportunities for children with disabilities, that otherwise would not have been experienced in specialized schools. These children would be in close proximity to their typically developing peers, and as a result are able to acquire cognitive, language and social skills through observing and interacting with their peers. Because it is in the nature of children to explore why other people are different from themselves, it is important for the carer/teacher to facilitate this inquisitive process. The carer/teacher can assist a child with disability and other children in understanding why he/she is different. Differences are not bad, and should not be treated as such. When differences are talked about, the children will feel more comfortable in accepting others. A part of this process is for the child to be able to express what is different/unique about him/her. Becoming comfortable with this will prepare the child with disability in dealing with discrimination if it should arise.
Another benefit of inclusive education for children with disabilities is that the principle of inclusion incorporates values like participation, friendship and respect for diversity. Having a disability is likely to be not the only thing different or special about a child. Disability crosscuts all cultures and income levels, and so an atmosphere of inclusion would also embrace cultural differences between people.
Source by Eileen Simoni
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