Inclusion is for Everyone

Hi Early Childhood Educators!

This monthly installment is going to revolve around working with children with special needs. The month of April is often identified as Autism Awareness month, but brings awareness to many of the children we encounter who often need special accommodations. As an educator working in the early childhood field, whether it be daycare, Head Start, Pre-K, etc., wants to ensure that its students are exceeding the high standards of the CDA Council by acknowledging the need for special accommodations in the classroom.

A teacher’s job is to meet the child where he/she is; meaning, the teacher needs to alter lesson plans or activities, in order to ensure students’ success. While working towards your National CDA Credential, students are asked to write about children with special needs, and are required to design lesson plans around students with special needs. But what exactly does that mean? Often times, students from will state that they do not have any children with special needs, and therefore, their lesson plans do not include accommodations. But what if a new child started in your early learning center tomorrow? How would you adjust? Would you know what to do?

To give a brief breakdown of understanding what it means to make these “accommodations,” first a teacher needs to understand the terminology being used. For example, providing supports, making modifications, and creating adaptations to lessons/activities, are actually 3 different things, but that all fall under special accommodations. When you provide a child with support, you are simply providing the child with an “extra hand” so to speak. When you modify a lesson or activity, you are changing what is being taught to the child, or what your expectations of the child may be. An example is making a task easier for a child with a special need. When a teacher makes accommodations for students, the teacher is providing a change to the activity that allows the students to work around his/her disability. For example, in a writing activity, you may expect your students in a 5-year-old class to write one sentence about their drawing, but for a child with special needs, perhaps that child is unable to write, but can verbalize what their picture represents and you write it for them.  

One of the most important places to start as an early childhood educator, is to understand your student and understand his/her need. Meet the child where they are and go to their level. Understand that all students can succeed, but not all students will do it in the same way.