Inclusion in Preschool
Preschool Inclusion is more common now, than ever. Odds are most preschool teachers have experienced having special needs students mainstreamed into their class at some point. The inclusion classroom is here to stay, since the least restrictive environment is often one where a child learns with “typical” peers. If you are teaching an inclusive preschool, the following tips might just make life a little easier.
Inclusion takes some planning and delegating for it to work effectively. If you have a child with physical disabilities, you may need an assistant to help with a wheelchair or other medical equipment. Be sure to ask for help if you feel the classroom situation has become dangerous to other kids due to a lack of assistance. A teacher’s assistant may be provided, but you have to be sure to delegate tasks in such a way that you can get things done without a lot of extra distractions. Preschool teachers need to be free to teach, so have a conference with any assistants in your classroom. Let them know which duties require their help. Provide this in writing if needed, but make sure the assistant knows what is expected. The goal should be that you are not constantly forced to tell them what to do. This breaks your concentration, and makes teaching frustrating.
Use Peer Tutors
When your class is comprised of children with differing ability levels, you have the perfect situation for peer tutors. The older, more advanced preschoolers will love assisting students with special needs. There are many great ways to get your preschoolers helping each other. Try assigning a buddy to each child who needs extra help during certain activities. When you are at centers, place each child with special needs in a group with kids who are at a higher level, and are willing to give assistance to that student when needed. You can even get older students from other classes to come and work with your preschoolers. Give them an activity to help the child with for a boost to both children’s self esteem.
An individualized learning program will be imperative when teaching preschool in an inclusion classroom. Including children with special needs means meeting them at their level, but it also means that other children are met at theirs. Provide activities that challenge each student during centers. Keep varying developmental levels in mind when planning activities, and frequently assess all of your students' progress. You can teach to different ability levels during group activities by varying your level of expectation. For example, a whole class may be doing the same art project, but only 2 may be cutting out the picture, while everyone is coloring, and 4 are independently using glue to attach the picture to the background.
Preschool inclusion is here to stay, so preschool teachers need to learn ways to teach effectively, while meeting the needs of all children. From delegating to individualizing learning, teaching in an inclusion classroom is challenging, but it can also be a rewarding experience.