Inclusion refers to true belonging. It means supporting all people to participate fully within society regardless of their abilities.
Inclusive early learning environments are safe and caring spaces that embrace diversity and remove barriers to increase the participation of all children. Every child and family deserve to feel welcomed and safe to participate in early learning and child care programs.
Inclusive environments require an understanding of each child’s background and interests, as well as materials and resources that reflect diverse experiences, interests, families, identities, and cultures. In the NWT, this also involves programming that is deeply rooted in the culture, language, worldviews, and practices of the community.
It is the ability for a child and their family:
- To have access to a program or community space.
- Children benefit from experiences outside of their homes and immediate surroundings.
- Participation in early childhood programming and age-appropriate community activities is essential to ongoing development and future success.
- To have the supports to be successful in the program or community space. Supports may include people, places, or things:
- People: Staff training related to supporting children with diverse needs and/or additional staff may be required to ensure adequate support in busy programs and to keep spaces safe and caring for all. This may be one to one, or one to multiple children support depending upon the needs of those in a program.
- Places: Spaces can be modified to provide extra support and remove barriers to learning and development. Programs can create quiet “rest and restore” spaces or “active play” areas within their environments to meet the varied needs of children.
- Things: Learning materials and methods, use of technology, and alternative schedules, can provide the supports that ensure the success of all children in early childhood programming.
Simply being in a program or the community, however, is not true inclusion. To be truly included and belong, children and families also need to have a purpose for being there. This is done by:
- Recognizing the strengths of a child and family to build new skills from an area of interest and competence.
- Knowing the activities that motivate and are developmentally appropriate for all children accessing your programs to promote child enjoyment and participation.
- A team-based approach to working with families and other service providers such as Occupational Therapists and Speech Language Pathologists can help program providers get to know the interests, activities and supports for the children in an early childhood program.