Early Learning:

Early Learning...

Recommendations for States

States, local early learning programs and providers, and families must work together so that children with disabilities have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs.

The ED and HHS “Policy Statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs” offers the following recommendations to States:

  1. Create a State-Level Interagency Task Force and Plan for Inclusion:
    States should leverage existing early childhood councils or taskforces and create or strengthen a focus on early childhood inclusion. This council should build on existing early childhood efforts, bring partners together, co-create a written vision statement for early childhood inclusion, and carry out an inclusion state plan.

  2. Ensure State Policies Support High-Quality Inclusion:
    States should review their policies to ensure that they facilitate high-quality inclusion. The state should ensure that future early learning initiatives within the state have specific policies and procedures to recruit, enroll, and appropriately support the learning and developmental needs of young children with disabilities.

  3. Set Goals and Track Data:
    States should set concrete goals for expanding access to inclusive high-quality early learning opportunities, and track progress in reaching these goals.

  4. Review and Modify Resource Allocations:
    States should review how resources are allocated and how they may be reallocated to better support increased access to inclusive early childhood programs. States should consider using funds across multiple early childhood programs, particularly IDEA funds with other early childhood funding streams.

  5. Ensure Quality Rating Frameworks are Inclusive:
    Each level in a quality framework should include indicators applicable to children with disabilities, as opposed to indicators specific to children with disabilities being optional or only applying at the highest level of a framework.

  6. Strengthen Accountability and Build Incentive Structures:
    The state should address barriers inclusion within their accountability system. This should include reviewing the individualized education program (IEP) process to ensure that placement decisions are individualized and consistent with least restrictive environment requirements for eligible children under the IDEA.

  7. Build a Coordinated Early Childhood Professional Development (PD) System:
    An effective early childhood workforce is a key component of expanding access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs. States should ensure that their professional development efforts are coordinated and that inclusion and children with disabilities are meaningfully addressed across all efforts. Specifically, states should:

    • Build a Common Knowledge and Competency Base Across Child-Serving Providers

    • Ensure that State Certifications, Credentials, and Workforce Preparation Programs have a Strong Focus on Inclusion

    • Ensure Personnel Policies Facilitate Inclusion

    • Offer Cross-Sector Professional Development and Technical Assistance

  8. Implement Statewide Supports for Children's Social-Emotional and Behavioral Health:
    Early childhood programs should have access to specialists who can build capacity in working with young children, with an emphasis on fostering social-emotional and behavioral health.

  9. Raise Public Awareness:
    The tate should partner with community leaders to communicate the benefits of early childhood inclusion, affirm the laws and research that form the foundation for inclusion, and set the expectation that the community is responsible for ensuring that all children have access to high-quality early childhood programs and the individualized supports they need to fully participate in those programs.


Resources for States

Free, federally-supported resources are available to help early learning programs and providers improve inclusive practices. Please note that this is not a complete list of resources, and we will continue to add more as they become available.

Last Modified: 06/21/2017