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ED & HHS Release Policy Statement on Inclusion in Early Childhood Programs

The “Policy Statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs,” released jointly by the Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) on September 14, 2015, states that all young children with disabilities should have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs, where they are provided with individualized and appropriate support in meeting high expectations.

Children with disabilities and their families continue to face significant barriers to accessing inclusive high-quality early childhood programs, and too many preschool children with disabilities are only offered the option of receiving special education services in settings separate from their peers without disabilities.

The ED/HHS policy statement:

  • Sets an expectation for high-quality inclusion in early childhood programs;

  • Highlights the legal and research base for inclusion;

  • Identifies challenges to adopting inclusive practices;

  • Provides recommendations to states and local programs and providers for increasing inclusive early learning opportunities for all children; and

  • Links to free resources for states, local programs and providers, and families that have been developed to support inclusion of children with disabilities in high-quality early education programs.

The policy statement was written with the input of early learning professionals, families, and other early learning stakeholders. Though it focuses on including young children with disabilities, it is ED’s and HHS’s shared vision that all people be meaningfully included in all facets of society throughout the course of their lives. This begins in early childhood programs and continues into schools, places of employment, and the broader community.


  Full Policy Statement

  Executive Summary

  Letter by Secretaries Duncan and Burwell on Inclusion in Early Learning Programs


Inclusion News

NEW State TA Resource: How Phase 3 Early Learning Challenge States are Leveraging ELC Funds and Other Funds to Support Inclusion

This resource, developed by the Early Learning Challenge Technical Assistance (ELC TA), describes how the six Phase 3 ELC states (Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont) are leveraging ELC funds and other state funds to support inclusion. To address this request, ELC TA contacted the ELC grant coordinators in June 2017, and asked them to address five specific questions. This information will be helpful to other states as they consider how to continue to increase the quality of early learning for children with special needs.

READ OSERS Blog—Voices from the Field: Brenda Van Gorder
Read an interview of Brenda Van Gorder on OSERS Blog. Brenda is director of Granite School District Preschool Services in Salt Lake City, Utah, and in the interview shares the importance of high quality preschool programs, and strategies for overcoming barriers to preschool inclusion.
Watch the Sept. 7th Inclusion Webinar

Watch the September 7th Inclusion Webinar on Preparing a High-Quality Workforce to Support Inclusion in Early Childhood Program where presenters discussed current issues related to workforce development and highlight training programs at University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.

Updated Dear Colleague Letter on Preschool Least Restrictive Environments

Read the OSERS' Updated Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) on Preschool Least Restrictive Environments (LRE). The policy guidance provided in the DCL covers:

  • Key statutory and regulatory requirements,
  • Preschool placement options,
  • Reporting educational environments data for preschool children with disabilities, and
  • Use of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B funds for preschool children with disabilities.

Watch the April 14th Inclusion Webinar

The Department of Education's Office of Early Learning hosted a webinar: "Early Childhood Inclusion: Implementation of the State Recommendations." The webinar included representatives from Maryland, Vermont and Massachusetts who discused the implementation of high-quality inclusion programs in their states and how they are supporting local programs. 

Watch the Feb. 18th National Inclusion Webinar
Preschool Inclusion: What's the Evidence, What Gets in the Way, and What do High-Quality Programs Look Like?
Phil Strain from the University of Colorado, Denver, shared an overview of the research supporting early childhood inclusion.
Watch here.

Inclusion in Early Childhood Programs—Watch the Webinar Series Kickoff
The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services hosted a February 11th Google Hangout for a discussion about inclusion in early childhood programs and why it matters to states, early childhood programs, families, and young children with and without disabilities. Speakers included leadership from federal early childhood programs, a local program director, and the parent of a child with a disability.

Click here to view the event.

Last Modified: 08/09/2017