Inclusion FAQ

What is Inclusive Child Care?

Inclusive child care can be defined as child care that allows all children to learn together in an educational atmosphere that supports and nurtures the individual strengths of each child, and where each child participates in the daily routines and activities of the class, regardless of cognitive or physical impairments.

Why is it important?

Every child deserves the opportunity to interact with other people regardless of their (dis)ability. Children learn many of their skills from other children, from social behaviors to physical and cognitive actions. By including children with disabilities in typical classrooms, active engagement between students is encouraged, allowing optimal opportunities for children to form their own relationships and accept one another's differences at an early age.

In many cases, separate, segregated education reduces the conditions for positive learning experiences. With inclusion, all children learn to adapt early to children with disabilities, and all are more readily able to attain a realistic view about persons living with disabilities.

For more information on children's social and cognitive development, go to: Support Agencies

Where can I get technical assistance and advice?

Please see Support Agencies

How many children in America have disabilities?

According to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), there were over 619,000 children with disabilities between the ages of three and five served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the 2001-2002 school year, the last year with information available. The amount of children between the ages of 3 and 21 under the same criteria totaled just under 6.5 million or roughly 8 percent of all children in the United States in that age range.

How does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) relate to inclusive child care?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is federal legislation that extends civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities, prohibiting discrimination by child care and after-school care providers against children with special needs. Both privately owned and publicly operated child care programs are affected by the public accommodations sections as well as the employment provisions. For more information, call the ADA Information Line at 800.514.0301 (voice); 800.514.0383 (TDD) or go to

Why has the federal government strongly endorsed inclusive child care and related educational support?

In a 2001 interview with NEA Today magazine, Senator Lowell P. Weicker, Jr., a Connecticut Republican and the original sponsor of ADA, said "I want my children educated in a diverse setting. That's the world. What's the purpose of education? It isn't just to go through a series of tests. It's to prepare people for the world."

How do we implement Inclusive Child Care?

Professional educators are able to implement inclusive child care by ensuring that activities and materials used in the classroom are adaptable to their students with disabilities. In this case, adaptation can be defined as assisting children in overcoming their individual intellectual, physical, or behavioral challenges. By using the skills that each individual child possesses to incorporate new skills, each child is able to become actively involved in the educational experience. However, it is important to remember that the circumstances and extent of each child's disability are unique, and adaptations to lessons should be under constant review.

Some ideas on how to adapt lesson plans include:

  • working in larger groups, or with peer partners
  • using role playing or demonstrations
  • changing the arrangement of the room's furniture
  • creating individualized learning objectives
  • adding handles or an elastic cord to items for ease of use
  • sequencing learning tasks

What are "Natural Environments"?

Natural environments, also referred to as natural settings, are areas such as child care programs and community settings where a child with disabilities can learn. It is important to distinguish that a "natural environment" is an area where the child would "naturally" be, as opposed to a segregated environment.

What is "Universal Design" and where can I get more information?

According to Ron Mace of The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University, universal design is the design of functional products and environments for all people, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

Examples of universal design include widening doorways, lowering or raising countertops, placing large, easy to use handles on items, and creating a home ramp.

For more information, visit The Center for Universal Design

What is "Assistive Technology" and where can I get more information?

Assistive technology can be defined as the application of technology to assist people with disabilities in their mobility, communication, athletics and recreation, and daily life routines. Assistive technology helps people with physical, mental, or age-related disabilities.

For more information, visit Adaptive Technology Resource Center, University of Toronto and

What is "Full Inclusion"?

Full inclusion is defined as when all students with disabilities, regardless of the nature or severity of the disabling condition, are included in the general education classroom full time. All services are delivered to the child within that setting.

How important is parental involvement?

Parental involvement is key to every child's education, but especially so with children who are working within an IEP. Parents are instrumental in helping to identify strengths and setting goals for their children's education, as well as reinforcing the lessons learned within the classroom.

What is an IEP?

An Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, is a written plan of educational goals and objectives for a student. This plan is reviewed and rewritten each year with input from the student, the student's teachers, aides, and family. For more information, visit

What is an IFSP?

An Individual Family Service Plan, or IFSP, is a written plan of special support goals and services to be provided to infants and toddlers under the age of three for their families. This plan is written each year through dialogue with the student's families, aides, and teachers.

What language should I use to describe a student with a disability?

The language that you use when describing a child with a disability can send a strong message. The important thing to remember is to identify the child first, not the disability.

How do you instruct other students to interact with students with disabilities?

Positive peer interaction is important for creating a successful inclusive child care program. All students need to have some idea of a child's disability, so that they can recognize what behaviors are acceptable. Participation of all students in class activities will help to familiarize students with one another's abilities and personalities, creating a supportive learning environment.

Where can I get information about particular disabilities?

The following links feature information on specific disabilities as well as resources for additional information. Helpful Links