Special Needs and Inclusion:

Examine the Environments

Breadcrumb trail:

Environments play a significant role in the learning process.

The early childhood experience involves planning for a variety of environments. The physical environment may be the first one that comes to mind. But the social, intellectual, and emotional environments are equally important and critical to children's overall well being. Remember that the environment — in all of its aspects — is our partner in providing high quality early childhood programs.

A teacher observes a child arranging plates.

As early childhood practitioners, we strive for BEST PRACTICE. But how is "best" possible when a teacher must also implement an IEP or IFSP for a child in her care? Let's listen to a group of teachers talk about how they integrate IEP and IFSP goals into their curriculum.

In our work, we continually negotiate integrating the learning goals of individual children and the group's learning goals. How does our environment meet those goals? How do you explain having a piece of equipment exclusively for the use of one child in a group setting? What materials are offered in your setting that can be used by all children of differing abilities?

Try This!

Take photographs or make sketches of the different areas in your environment. Examine them closely, and then…

  • consider how your attitudes of inclusion are reflected, or not reflected, in your environment.
  • choose one or more areas, in which you could make simple changes, that would better accommodate a child with special needs. Be sure to include entrance spaces, adult use spaces, and outdoors.
  • What would it take to make these changes?

Use this template to record your observations, thoughts, and feelings.  Download the Template

Deepen Your Understanding

California Early Childhood Educator Competencies

Deepen your understanding of these Topics: Universal design for learning in Performance Area 2 and Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams in Performance Area 3 of the CA ECE Competencies. Scroll to pages 62 and 65.

Can you find other places in this competency area that address these questions?

Download the California ECE Competencies

California Early Childhood Educator Competencies

Extend Your Learning

Download "Inclusion Works! - Creating Child Care Programs That Promote Belonging for Children with Special Needs"

The California Inclusion and Behavior Consultation Network offers technical assistance for dealing with challenging child behaviors.

View this video about Isabella, a child with vision impairment, and her mother, Elizabeth. See how her teachers made simple but useful accommodations to support Isabella’s needs.