Integrating Social Inclusion Strategies

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, an estimated 1 in 40 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. As the need to address and embrace neurodivergent learners early in life increases, so does the need to integrate social inclusion strategies that welcome and support children of all abilities and skill levels.

Inclusion strategies in early childhood settings ensure all children can participate and engage in learning, playing, and other activities that influence development.

Social Inclusion in the Early Childhood Classroom

Individualized teaching and social inclusion is a core component of effective Head Start classrooms. Because of the many unique needs and abilities of children, it can be difficult to know what works best for individuals or where to start.

There are many ways to modify classroom environments to support the needs of children with disabilities and sensory challenges. For example, for children with auditory processing disorders, providing headphones, soothing sounds or certain types of music, sound buffered spaces, and seating away from speaker systems may help to reduce sensitive reactions to uncomfortable noises.

It is important for adults to guide children in supporting and including their classmates with special needs in their play and learning. Activities that allow all children to engage and participate can help classmates learn how to respond appropriately and supportively to children with sensory or social challenges.

Exclusion from learning and social environments for children with disabilities can drastically impact health and developmental outcomes. Children with disabilities are more likely to be bullied than their peers, socially isolated later in life, and unemployed after high school.

Here are three ways you can learn more:

  1. Watch this webinar on early identification of disabilities.
  2. Check out the Autism 101 course from Quorum and Kaplan Early Learning. This course is $30 and worth 0.3 CEUs.
  3. Explore the CDC Learn the Signs, Act Early website and download the free Milestone Tracker App and other resources for early education staff, educators, and parents.
Dr. Deborah Bergeron

Dr. Deborah Bergeron

Dr. B is the NHSA's deputy director of Community Engagement and Innovation. She supports high-quality programming and is a constant reminder to the folks on the ground that they are the backbone of Head Start and Early Head Start.

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