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The ERIC/OSEP Special Project

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Development funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs


Parents Want Inclusion for Young Children but Need Information and Support

Children with disabilities generally enter into education in situations that are inclusive and offer a variety of services. As they move from early childhood to school-based programs, however, some move to more restrictive educational settings at the instigation of parents and professionals. A recent OSEP-funded study by the Early Childhood Research Institute on Inclusion (see Hanson, et al. 2001, cited below) sought to understand some of the factors that influence young children's participation in inclusive educational settings.

The study was conducted over 5 years and followed 25 children with disabilities and 8 typically developing children from preschool through elementary school. Interviews with parents provided information about their perceptions of inclusion, expectations for their child's education, and comments on their satisfaction with the placement of their child.

The study found that generally, parents advocated for inclusive placements. However, when their children's needs were not met in these settings, some chose other options. Primary concerns were availability of specialized therapies and services, children's acceptance by others, teachers' judgments or attitudes about the child's disability, and parents' judgments of the appropriateness of teachers' training and experience in addressing the child's needs.

How well parents can seek and understand information influences their decisions about program choices. This has strong implications for parents who are not familiar with the values of the dominant culture and the educational infrastructure or who are not adequately fluent in English, since those abilities are essential to collecting the information needed to make decisions.

Overall, the study found that the major influences on the amount of inclusive education the children received were

  • the amount of support for inclusion offered by administrative structures at the school level
  • an infrastructure and teaching staff model that emphasizes the provision of specialized instruction and services within the general education program,
  • adequate preparation of both general and special educators and knowledge of how to implement special teaching strategies, and
  • family expectations, experiences, and supports (such as having an advocate) that allow parents to make transitions and choices more easily.

This research was supported by a grant from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education, (Grant #H024K94004). For more information, see Hanson, M. J., Horn, E., Sandall, S., Beckman, P, Morgan, M., Marquart, J., Barnwell, D., & Chou, H-Y. (2001, Fall). After preschool inclusion: Children's educational pathways over the early school years. Exceptional Children 68(1), pp. 65-83.

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Last updated: March 25, 2002

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