Indiana Preschool Inclusion: Inclusive Special Education Services for Preschoolers with Disabilities
An analysis of the 2015-2016 Indiana Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) data revealed that, despite 30+ years of research indicating that preschool children with and without disabilities benefit from inclusive early education, only 30% of approximately 12,000 Indiana preschool children with disabilities received special education services in regular early learning classrooms (Barton & Smith, 2014). However, the potential to move Indiana’s preschool children with disabilities into regular education classrooms is now stronger than ever due to the state’s recent investment in expanding access to high quality prekindergarten classrooms in 15 counties, including some in public schools.
The Early Childhood Center (ECC) began working with the Indiana Department of Education Office of Special Education to examine and increase inclusive preschool services for children with disabilities in December 2016. The project’s long-term goal is to increase the number of preschoolers with disabilities who are served in high quality inclusive early childhood programs and successfully transition into inclusive kindergarten classrooms. To achieve this goal, the following objectives were formed:
- Pinpoint school districts who currently provide inclusive early childhood special education services, demonstrate a high impact on child outcomes, and successfully transition these children into inclusive kindergarten classrooms.
- Use pinpointed school districts as models for other districts by documenting their use of evidence-based practices for effective inclusive early childhood education and effective transition planning into inclusive kindergarten classrooms.
- Provide training and technical assistance to school districts to increase the number of preschoolers with disabilities served in high quality inclusive early childhood settings that demonstrate positive outcomes.
Seventeen Indiana school districts participated in this project’s preliminary study. Fifty-seven district personnel completed an online survey (rating evidence-based practices in their program as in place, partially in place, or not in place); 27 district administrators and 34 classroom practitioners participated in phone interviews (documenting details regarding their inclusive practices); 12 classrooms were selected for observations (confirming the presence or absence of reported practices); 3 state agency administrators and 6 state inclusion specialists were also interviewed (obtaining the state’s perspective on preschool inclusion).
Data from the above measures is currently being analyzed to discover examples of high quality inclusive classroom models and practices in our state. Additional analyses will identify barriers to, and resources needed for these evidence-based practices to occur. The findings will inform the development of training and technical assistance, including professional development opportunities intended to increase the number of preschoolers with disabilities served in high quality inclusive early childhood settings.
Barton, E. E. & Smith, B. J. (2014). Fact sheet of research on preschool inclusion. Pyramid Plus: The Colorado Center for Social Emotional Competence and Inclusion. Denver, CO. http://www.pyramidplus.org/
Division for Early Childhood. (2014). DEC recommended practices in early intervention/early childhood special education 2014. Retrieved from http://www.dec-sped.org/recommendedpractices
United States Department of Health and Human Services and United States Department of Education. (2015). Policy statement on inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood programs..