I believe that everyone should have equal access to being fully included. This was made clearer to me when I started working in my daughter’s fully inclusive preschool program six years ago. I learned a lot in a short amount of time about what inclusion was and what it looked like in a preschool and daycare center. Before working in the center, I didn’t know a thing about inclusion. Today I can tell you that inclusion means teaching all children together, regardless of their ability level. It is the practice of educating and caring for children with disabilities and other special needs in the same environment as their typically developing peers. In my inclusive program, children with and without disabilities learn and participate in the same daily activities and routines. As I continued working in the classroom this is where I was able to see how inclusion is beneficial for all children.
This mixed age-inclusive classroom is where I met a 4-year-old boy with special needs. This was his second year in preschool, and I was given the opportunity to work closely with him. He was eager to show me what he liked and what he didn’t through nonverbal communication. He had little to no verbal language, so I and the other teachers created simple sign language visuals to allow us and the other children in the classroom to communicate with him. As I worked so closely with him, I began to see all that he was trying to show and tell me. I offered visual aids such as communication boards and used verbal and non-verbal communication skills with him to allow for multiple ways of back-and-forth communication and information sharing. When using some of these ways of communication he was able to choose and show me who he wanted to play with and what he wanted to do during the day. He helped solidify that my passion is working with young children and show me how much I also love working with children with special needs while inside of a classroom with typical peers too. So, in 2018, I started my journey to go back to college to obtain an associate degree in Early Childhood Education, and now I am in my final semester at LCC.
The preschool center is where I not only found my love for teaching and working with young children in an inclusive setting it is where I found myself. I didn’t have a plan or idea as to what my career was but as I continued to work in an inclusive center and classroom it became clear that I wanted to be a teacher. I will continue to instill the beliefs and actions of inclusion through modeling and teaching every day. This belief was instilled in me through the reoccurring actions of the director and other staff at my preschool center, and they continue to show me what inclusion is today. My center was awarded a grant that allowed us to buy and build a fully inclusive preschool playground structure that was finally installed last week. I can’t wait to see that all children in my center are able to play, navigate and explore this new experience with one another equally.