What makes a good, inclusive early childhood practice? According to Early Childhood Intervention Australia NSW/ACT's (ECIA NSW/ACT) Emma Pierce, practitioners need to start with a robust framework.
Emma started her career working with children with autism spectrum disorders and has worked with ECIA NSW/ACT since 2013 in a number of project roles. She has also run workshops for Gowrie NSW, such as 'Practical inclusion strategies: supporting children with disabilities and/or developmental delays to participate meaningfully in early childhood education and care settings'.
According to Emma, educators are generally keen to ensure that their centres are inclusive of all children, including those with a disability or developmental delay, but they are often looking for some practical ideas and support to enhance their inclusive practices.
“One in five Australian’s have a disability, so it’s quite likely every early childhood centre has at least 1 child with a disability.” Emma said. It's important that educators have a framework to help them reflect on upon current practices and work out ways in which they may need to adapt and adjust their program to include children with disabilities or developmental delays.
While there may be challenges along the way, collaboration with the child’s family and other professionals (plus a flexible approach) can make real inclusion for all children possible.
Emma believes that focusing on accessibility alone is not enough.
“While accessibility is important, educators also need to look beyond accessibility to meaningful participation. The framework we've previously presented in our workshops helps educators to focus on what is most important and what really makes a difference when it comes to ensuring every child is really included. By reflecting on this framework, we can enhance the everyday experiences of early childhood education and care for all children such as through inclusive groups and meal times; developing functional and social play skills and supporting children to make routine transitions. ”