Special Needs and Inclusion

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About this Competency

Seeking to promote the importance of creating inclusive early care and education settings, this competency area addresses the knowledge and skills that early childhood educators are expected to have to foster the learning and development of young children with disabilities or other special needs. It includes policies and requirements for inclusive practice, program philosophies that promote full participation by all children, collaboration with families and other service providers, and personalization of practices to meet children’s individual and family needs (CDE 2009b). Because children learn and develop in different ways, it is the responsibility of early childhood educators to provide diverse learning opportunities to meet the needs of all children. This competency area reinforces and extends the performance areas of the Observation, Screening, Assessment, and Documentation competency area.

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California Early Childhood Educator Competencies

California Early Childhood Educator Competencies Wheel

Framing Questions

Framing questions identify some of the major themes in this competency. They provide you with a starting point. As you explore this competency, add your own framing questions for issues you want to further examine.

  • How do you create a culture of inclusion that names and actualizes the benefits for typically, as well as atypically, developing children?
  • How do you decide if a child requires additional screening and resources?
  • How do you ensure all children’s right to play and fully engage in your community?
  • How do you support the process for families moving from guilt and grief to hope, pride, and advocacy?


Keep these dispositions in mind as you explore the Framing Questions. If you mindfully adopt these dispositions, you will realize the Desired Outcomes for Practitioners and for Children.

  • Values inclusion of all children as full participants in early care and education settings.
  • Values collaboration with families, early childhood special educators, and other service providers in meeting the needs of children with disabilities or other special needs.
  • Values access to the least restrictive environment.
  • Is committed to creating inclusive environments that benefit all children in early care and education settings.

Desired Outcomes for practitioners

If I have these dispositions, then I will…

  • see concrete things I can do to support and ensure the child's right to play.
  • balance compassion and "point of view" with the reality of the child's experience and development.
  • maintain self-care opportunities for staff and myself.
  • become an advocate, supporting and allowing specialists to take responsibility.

Desired Outcomes for Children

If teachers and caregivers have these dispositions, then children will…

  • feel good about themselves and their abilities.
  • have friends and get play and exercise each day.
  • count on their teachers and families to help them when they need it.
  • know that their teachers and caregivers are "on their side".
  • speak up for themselves and their friends.

Keys to Reflection and Inquiry

The CompSAT Keys to Reflection and Inquiry offer you a protocol to use in whatever setting you work as an early childhood educator. Learn how you can integrate the six Keys into your work. Select one of the Keys below to practice reflecting with questions related to the competency area of Special Needs and Inclusion.


Choose from one of the Keys below to view additional information related to this Competency!

Build Your Portfolio

Journaling — A very personal statement of growth.

Portfolio screenshot

Journaling is a great way to record your experiences, keep track of your questions, and make sense of your choices and their outcomes. Journaling lends itself nicely to portfolio work. It's largely a narrative format, but can be enhanced by the addition of photos, sketches, and doodles. Journaling can be done on the computer, or can it can be done using plain, blank notebooks, a pen, and colored pencils.

View the Portfolio Sample

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