Young child painting in classroom

Providing Early Childhood Special Education Services in Community-Based Settings

This publication offers key takeaways and lessons learned from other school districts implementing inclusive early childhood special education services.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education, “All young children with disabilities should have access to high-quality inclusive early childhood programs that provide individualized and appropriate support so they can fully participate alongside their peers without disabilities, meet high expectations, and achieve their full potential.” The purpose of this paper is to describe how school districts around the country support inclusion in all settings including in community-based early learning programs using different models and to share their key considerations and lessons learned to inform more communities about how to make this critical shift.

Key Recommendations

As reiterated by the federal government, not only is inclusion a human right, it also supports positive outcomes for children with and without disabilities and developmental delays. However, inclusion is not yet a reality for many and inequities are pervasive. This report emphasizes that inclusion in all settings is possible, it describes different models of inclusion, and it highlights lessons learned and key considerations from other districts providing inclusive early childhood special education services in community-based early care and education settings.

The findings are as follows:

  • Engage families as essential partners
  • Develop a shared vision and increase leadership commitment
  • Build relationships and connections
  • Start slowly and intentionally
  • Support collaborative professional learning and continuous improvement
  • Increase resources for both early childhood special education services and community-based early care and education.