What is inclusion?
In a preschool inclusion program, young children with special needs or disabilities play and learn beside other, non-disabled, or typically developing, children during all parts of the school day. Inclusion is different from mainstreaming where children leave a self-contained special education environment to be with their non-disabled peers only during certain parts of the daily routine, such as snack, art, music or outside time. In an inclusion program, a child is totally integrated physically and socially with his peers.
At Fairlington, the concept of inclusion defines many aspects of our preschool program. For example, we have chosen to work with the HIGH/SCOPE curriculum because it allows children to learn at their own rate and level. As well, we also welcome two ACPS Community Partnership classrooms, which follow their own model of inclusion and enrich us with their presence.
To make sure we can effectively accommodate our special needs children and their classmates we use systematic strategies to implement inclusion successfully. Fairlington teachers are highly qualified and receive continuous in-service training in typical early child development and in understanding the needs of children with disabilities. Teachers receive tremendous support and resource help from two staff therapists. One day a week, our occupational therapist provides motor and sensory integration therapy to individual students either in the classroom or in a specially designated room. She also works with the teachers to help them understand and develop strategies for motor growth and development in all the children. It is not unusual to find whole classrooms of children moving their bodies through a challenging maze of equipment set up by the occupational therapist or to see her at the collage area helping a table of children correctly grasp and manipulate markers, pencils, and staplers.
Our speech therapist works at Fairlington once a week helping children who have difficulties producing or understanding language. She, too, works with individual children as well as the teachers. She also works in the classrooms encouraging or leading an activity that fosters or enriches language in all the students.
We have worked hard at Fairlington to create a program that supports the inclusion experience. A large dedicated staff, an appropriate curriculum and accessible support services help us achieve our goal of including children with special needs or disabilities in our program.