Commitment to the inclusion of every child in childcare or early childhood education requires the adoption of strategies for inclusion in childcare that are practical, meaningful and sufficiently flexible to cater for all circumstances. Inclusive Practice in childcare should be squarely aimed at ensuring that all children’s experience of childcare is a positive one. This article explores the various methods and strategies for inclusion in childcare.
When implementing inclusive strategies in childcare, there is a need to understand exactly what inclusion means, who benefits from inclusion in childcare, how inclusive practices work in the childcare setting and what practices can be adopted by the family at home.
When discussing inclusion in childcare it is important to remember that inclusion is likely to mean different things to different people. A good guide to what inclusion refers to in a regulatory sense is the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). This states that the curriculum decision making process should take into account every child’s uniqueness and linguistic, social and cultural diversities. This concept is supported by the National Quality Standards guidelines for inclusiveness which specifically mention ‘each child.”
These definitions and guidelines challenge common perceptions about inclusive practice being aimed specifically at children with disabilities or cultural barriers. Both the EYLF and NQS specifically mention every or each child – inferring that strategies for inclusion in childcare must be focused on all children in care.
A childcare setting that is actively practicing strategies for inclusion in childcare will be able to demonstrate that the childcare service is:
These characteristics ensure that educators are involved in planning activities with a view to engage and encourage every child’s participation in learning activities.
This can be achieved by using a coordinated targeted approach that addresses child’s needs under key categories such as child preferences, activity simplification, adaptation of tools and materials, peer support, adult encouragement etc.
Specifically any child who would benefit from “specific considerations or adaptations” is likely to benefit from inclusion policies in childcare. There are some groups that come readily to mind such as
As there are many different factors that cause additional needs, it is more than likely that each circumstance will demand that a different response be tailored to meet that need. Every child is likely to benefit from inclusive practice in childcare as there will be times that every child needs additional support.
The benefits of inclusive practice are numerous including
There are also benefits to be gained for the childcare provider in adopting inclusive practice. These benefits include opportunities to share resources and develop partnerships.
Parents can actively contribute to promoting an inclusive environment by adopting some simple inclusive practices around the home. These would include:
It is imperative that childcare educators include children in need of support by being observant of each child’s individual characteristics and that the child’s environment will have an effect upon their learning and general wellbeing.
Building two way relationships with families and communities are a critical step in formulating a childcare inclusion policy. Childcare providers who invest the time in getting to understand each child’s culture, family circumstances and community life are able to build respectful and meaningful relationships with all parties..
The inclusion process starts from the moment the family chooses to enroll. The first steps to building a strong collaborative relationship can commence at that first meeting. Carers can build on the initial groundwork and develop a more complete understanding of each child’s inclusion needs through an ongoing process of communication, collaboration, and consultation.
This process can be assisted by developing community projects that encourage participation and inclusion. A good example of such a project would be a community garden where families can help grow vegetables, herbs, and fruit and share in the rewards.
While strategies for inclusion in childcare can be broad in nature, those strategies must be flexible enough to address the child with additional needs.
An inclusion plan for children with additional needs may look something like this.
An effective childcare inclusion policy can deliver incredible benefits for all parties.