As you search for the perfect preschool for your three or four year old, you may encounter preschools that call their classrooms "inclusive". What benefits might an inclusive classroom have for your child? It helps to understand what an inclusive preschool classroom is. Inclusive classrooms are classrooms that include children with disabilities and special needs along with typically developing children, and adapt lessons and activities to meet the needs of all the children. Inclusion isn't an educational philosophy like Montessori or Waldorf; almost any type of preschool, no matter the educational philosophy they use, can be an inclusive preschool. Instead, it involves putting students with a diverse range of abilities in the same classroom. Take a look at some of the benefits of inclusive preschools for your child.
Lower Teacher to Student Ratios
It's a commonly accepted fact that the lower the student to teacher ratio in a classroom, the better the quality of education those students are receiving. It's not hard to understand why low student to teacher ratios are preferable. All students need one-on-one attention occasionally, and the more adults that are in the classroom, the more one-on-one attention each student can receive. Working in small groups is also desirable for socialization and learning, and in a preschool classroom, that means that there need to be several adults on hand to observe each different group.
Inclusive preschool classrooms tend to have lower student to teacher ratios than classrooms made up solely of typically developing children. That's because, in addition to a primary teacher and a teacher's assistant, inclusive classrooms may be staffed with special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and various occupational, physical, or speech therapists who are experienced with early childhood education. All children in the classroom benefit from this additional classroom support.
Not all learning is handed down from teacher to student. Children can actually learn quite a bit from each other, given the opportunity. In a classroom where all children have generally the same knowledge and ability level, there is little opportunity for children to learn from each other.
However, in an inclusive classroom, where children have a wide range of abilities and start out with different types of knowledge, students have many opportunities to learn from each other. Less experienced children learn by observing and mimicking their more experienced peers, and more experienced children reinforce their own knowledge and skills by demonstrating them for their classmates. In a classroom that contains children with a diverse sampling of skills and abilities, each child will have something to teach their classmates and something to learn from their classmates, resulting in a more well-rounded preschool experience. Furthermore, studies indicate that just as special needs children show educational gains from being placed in a classroom with typically developing children, typically develop children show educational gains as well, and may be more likely to test above average than children in non-inclusive classrooms.
Acceptance of Diversity
At the preschool level, children do not have any preconceived notions about disabilities and the people that have them. In inclusive classrooms, preschool aged children can see their differently-abled classmates learning and achieving alongside them, and naturally see them as peers and equals, despite their different abilities.
As a result, children who attend inclusive preschools gain the ability to be tolerant of diversity in ability levels and accepting of people who are different from themselves. They may also be more compassionate due to their experiences in inclusive preschool classrooms, as they will develop an understanding of special needs that children in non-inclusive classrooms may not.
In short, an inclusive preschool may be the best choice for your preschooler, whether or not your child has special needs. As you're exploring preschools in your area, like Kid's Country Child Care & Learning Center, and looking for the best one for your child, keep your eyes open for one that offers an inclusive classroom experience.