Inclusive Early EducationHigh-quality inclusion in early education supports children’s development, relationships with peers, and a sense of belonging.
Inclusive Early Education for Children with Disabilities Program Overview
High-quality inclusion in early education supports children’s development, relationships with peers, and a sense of belonging, which is true for children with and without disabilities. Not only do children with disabilities benefit from being included in early education but children without disabilities also have positive developmental outcomes in inclusive environments.
Under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, children ages three through 21 are to be provided special education and related services, to the maximum extent possible in the least restrictive environment (LRE) with children who are not disabled. In order to provide the LRE, programs should make available a continuum of placement options to allow for the most suitable placement for children with disabilities.
On September 14, 2015, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education released a joint policy statement: Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs. This policy statement (PDF) outlines the foundation for inclusion in early childhood programs, challenges to inclusion in early childhood programs, and recommendations for state action to support inclusion of children with disabilities.
In addition, California’s Master Plan for Early Learning and Care: Making California For All Kids (PDF) (MPELC) includes goals that align with the policy statement’s recommendations for inclusion of children with disabilities. Aligned goals include:
- Increasing opportunities for three- and four-year-old children to access high-quality, inclusive environments;
- Enhancing educator competencies to increase their effectiveness with all children and increase their ability to address children’s unique learning needs, including children with exceptional needs;
- Developing approaches to align policy and practices from birth through grade three by engaging local leadership in developing frameworks for effective transition periods.
The California Department of Education’s, Early Education Division (EED) (in collaboration with the Special Education Division) continues to strive to implement recommendations outlined in the joint policy statement and the MPELC goals to support three- and four-year-old children to access high-quality, inclusive environments.
Highlights of the EED inclusion efforts include:
Inclusive Early Education Expansion Program (IEEEP) Grant Program 2020-24
The IEEEP authorized the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) to award grants on a competitive basis for allocation to local educational agencies (LEAs). The purpose of IEEEP is to increase access to inclusive early learning and care programs for children with disabilities, including children with severe disabilities. The SSPI is also authorized to utilize funds for conducting an evaluation of the IEEEP. For more information, please visit the IEEEP 2020-24 web page.
IEEEP Grant Program 2022-27
The IEEEP authorized the SSPI to award $200 million in grants on a competitive basis for allocation to LEAs. The purpose of IEEEP is to increase access to inclusive early learning and care programs for children with disabilities, including children with severe disabilities. Funds will be awarded to selected LEAs for the purposes of adaptive and universally designed facility renovations, adaptive equipment, and professional development. For more information, please visit the IEEEP 2022-27 web page.
Impact Inclusion Workgroup
The Impact Inclusion Workgroup exists to lift, advocate for, and advance early childhood inclusive programs for children with disabilities in and across all sectors and systems in the state and tribes. We recognize and value the need for a culturally and linguistically responsive system reflective of our communities that honors individual strengths, differences, similarities, and perspectives, as essential to a quality inclusive system. Thus, a unified inclusive early learning and care system driven by an equity lens, will lead to equitable access, meaningful participation and a strong sense of authentic belonging for ALL of California’s children, their families, and the communities that serve them. For more information, please visit the Impact Inclusion Workgroup to web page.
Resources to support inclusive policies and practices for early care and education. For more information, please visit the Resource web page.