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Benefits of Inclusion

Inclusion benefits everyone

Boys playing with hanging cans outside

An inclusive preschool ensures an accessible learning environment for all children regardless of ability, race, culture, and background. It offers children multiple ways to access and engage with learning experiences and to express themselves in a supportive environment. Learning is individualised and adapted to meet the needs of all children, to enable their participation in all aspects of the program.

At preschool, inclusion is founded in play. Play’s open-ended nature encourages choice and naturally caters to different learning styles and supports teachable moments as they occur.

Inclusion benefits all children, not only children with disabilities or additional needs. Truly inclusive education results in improved quality of education for all, and education which is more sensitive to each child’s needs. This is strongly supported by clear and consistent evidence (Hehir et al., 2016).

Children learn from each other. When we include all children in our programs, that each person has unique abilities and to accept these differences. Children with disabilities, typically developing children, families, and educators all benefit from an inclusive culture of acceptance and support.

The 3 video series entitled 'Why Inclusion' produced by STEMIE, looks closely at the benefits of high quality inclusive settings. Videos include: Let's Change attitude and beliefs; Key characteristics of high quality inclusive environments and Social outcomes in inclusion. These can be accessed by clicking here.

Children with disabilities:

  • Are provided with a sense of belonging and are valued for their abilities and potential.
  • Have more varied and stimulating experiences than in segregated settings.
  • Can interact with, observe and imitate their typically developing peers. They gain encouragement from educators and other children and learn directly from others.
  • Can acquire improved language, social and cognitive skills (Rafferty, Piscitelli and Boetthcher, 2003).

No studies comparing the social impact of segregation and inclusive settings have shown segregation to be superior (Odem, 2000).

Typically developing children:

  • Have opportunities to learn skills, values, and attitudes related to human differences (Farrell, 2000), including learning how to be friends with people who are different from themselves and to assist peers who may be experiencing difficulty (Burnstein et al., 2004).
  • Are likely to show increases in self-esteem, confidence, autonomy, and leadership skills (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Burish, 2000).
  • Make similar developmental gains with only typically developing children and in inclusive preschools with children who have diverse abilities (Strain & Bovey, 2011).
  • May spontaneously communicate by alternative means to be able to exchange messages with their peers with disabilities, thus diversifying their skills.
  • Experience decreased fear of human differences, improvements in self-concept (increased self-esteem, perceived status, and sense of belonging); development of personal moral and ethical principles (less prejudice, higher responsiveness to the needs of others); and warm and caring friendships.
  • Longer term academic outcomes in areas such as reading and mathematics.

Research evidence suggests that being educated alongside a child with a disability does not lead to adverse effects for typically developing children (Odom, 2000).

  • The flexibility of the preschool curriculum and flexibility to respond to the range of learning styles through play, lends itself to inclusive practice.
  • Observation and reflection is an integral part of the planning cycle. Educators are experienced with observing children in their play and using their observations and critical reflections to enhance learning and create next steps.
  • Educators are familiar with working in teams who reflect together on their practice to create a purposeful, engaging environment (McClary, 2019).

Educators may experience challenges, such as knowing which strategies to use to ensure their program is inclusive or at times question how to enable access for individual children. At times, families may question inclusion, worrying that a child with additional needs may take up too much of the educator’s time or have negative impacts on their child’s behaviour and learning.

However, building an inclusive culture can support improvements in teaching practice that benefit all children. Effectively including a child with a disability requires educators to develop their capacity to support the individual strengths and needs of every child, not just those with disabilities.

Inclusion is an attitude - a set of values rather than a set of practicalities. Preschools are inclusive when they have:

  • Policies that promote inclusion
  • Leadership that supports inclusion
  • Educators who believe in inclusion

With careful planning and communication among educators and families, building a successful inclusive culture can be achieved. Your Preschool Inclusion Consultant can support you to enhance your inclusive practice – read about the many ways here.

Burstein, Nancy & Sears, Sue & Wilcoxen, Anne & Cabello, Beverly & Spagna, Michael. (2004). Moving Toward Inclusive Practices. Remedial and Special Education - REM SPEC EDUC. 25. 104-116. 10.1177/07419325040250020501Read abstract and request full text from authors here.

Farrell, M. (2000). Educational Inclusion and Raising Standards. British Journal of Special Education, 27: 35-38. Read abstract and request full text here.

Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L. S., & Burish, P. (2000). Peer-Assisted Learning strategies: An evidence-based practice to promote reading achievement. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 15(2), 85–91. Read abstract and request full text from authors here.

Hehir, T., Grindal, T., Freeman, B., Lamoreau, R., Borquaye, Y., & Burke, S. (2016). A summary of the evidence on inclusive education, from Read text here

McClary, R., (2019). Inclusion in the Preschool Classroom From Read text here

Odom, S. L. (2000). Preschool Inclusion: What We Know and Where We Go From Here. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 20(1), 20–27. Read abstract and request full text here

Rafferty, Y., Piscitelli, V., & Boettcher, C. (2003). The Impact of Inclusion on Language Development and Social Competence among Preschoolers with Disabilities. Exceptional Children, 69(4), 467–479. Read abstract and request full text text here

Strain, P. S., & Bovey, E. H. II. (2011). Randomized, controlled trial of the LEAP model of early intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorders. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 31(3), 133–154. Read abstract and request full text here

National Quality Standard links to the content on this page

QA1 Educational Program and Practice

All elements in QA1

QA2 Children’s Health and Safety

2.1.1 Wellbeing and comfort

2.1.2 Health practices and procedures

2.1.3 Heathy lifestyle

QA5 Relationships with Children

All elements of QA5

QA6 Collaborative Partnerships with families and communities

6.2.2 Access and participation

QA7 Governance and Leadership

7.1.1 Service philosophy and purpose