MEMPHIS, Tenn., Nov. 09, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Forty years after the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act called for increased inclusion in traditional education environments, more than half of U.S. children with disabilities continue to receive instruction in non-inclusive classroom settings. SRVS, Tennessee’s largest provider of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is moving to better integrate children into ‘typical’ society at an early age.
“SRVS Kids & Families Play Do Learn Preschool is one of only three totally inclusive programs in the state of Tennessee,” said Lorraine Ford, manager of the Play Do Learn Preschool. “Our program started 15 years ago and is fully inclusive in all daily activities, every day of the week. While many schools have programs that create a partially inclusive environment, ours provides the opportunity for full acceptance and inclusion of children with disabilities.”
Children from 18 months to 6 years old are provided a totally inclusive preschool experience through SRVS Kids Play Do Learn Preschool. The concept of inclusion – encouraging children with disabilities and typical children to play, develop and learn together – has seen mostly sporadic adoption and enforcement in early childhood education, increasing by less than 6 percent over the last three decades.
Like her two sisters before, 3-year-old Hazel is a typically developing child who currently attends the Play Do Learn Preschool. Her mother, Lily Russell, attests that the inclusive environment has taught Hazel that not all children express thoughts and emotions like she does, rather their actions stem from differences in their brain.
For example, Russell said that when a boy in her daughter’s class acted out because of the inability to use words to express his frustration, Hazel understood it was because “he has a boo-boo on his brain that keeps him from having the words she has to communicate what he wants.”
Russell attributes the inclusive classroom to the greater compassion, patience and awareness her three daughters have for individuals with disabilities, while never sacrificing attention or social and academic lessons in the classroom.
Inclusion allows children with disabilities to have peer role models. While there is increased attention given to those with special needs because they lack certain abilities, they also learn academic, social and behavioral skills from typical children that may not be learned in non-inclusive environments, according to inclusiveschools.org.
Children are encouraged to explore different learning styles that best fit their abilities and personalities. Those with disabilities are not treated differently than typical children, allowing them to improve mobility and communication techniques. A totally inclusive classroom creates an open learning environment and a sense of community with people of all backgrounds and abilities, making adaptation a less intimidating process as they grow older and encounter those who are different than them.
“SRVS Kids & Families Play Do Learn Preschool is a successful example of inclusive schooling, but there is a growing need for better attention to this type of learning environment,” Ford said. “The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services are now assisting states, school districts and early childhood education providers with guidance to create a place for total inclusion. Eventually, we hope to see inclusion become the standard practice for preschools across our state and nationwide.”
To learn more about the totally inclusive program at SRVS Kids & Families Play Do Learn Preschool visit http://www.srvs.org/playdolearn.
SRVS (Shelby Residential and Vocational Services) is Tennessee’s largest provider of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, offering a wide range of services including day programs, community living, community-based employment and children’s services, providing supports for 1000 individuals. Founded in 1962, SRVS is the “Family Answer for Disabilities.”
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