A New Approach to All-Inclusive Early Childhood Education: Getting All Teachers Ready for DECAL!

kidswalk2

By Karen N. Nemeth, Ed.M., Pam Brillante, Ed.D., Leah J. Mullen, M.A.

What do we need to see in early childhood education now and in the future? Our hands can reach back to help our colleagues move up, but our eyes have to look forward to the early childhood classrooms of the future. The days of fragmented programs where children and teachers are divided according to special needs and special skills are over. Silos don’t work. Isolating children and practitioners from each other is bad for early education.

All teachers of young children must be prepared for children with DECAL:

Different
Experiences
Cultures
Abilities
Languages

Addressing diversity can no longer be about a few buzzwords when we actually still consider diverse people as “others”. There are no non-diverse classrooms! Diversity is about the uniqueness of each and every young child – not about the many vs. the few, or the normal vs. the…..

When we talk about inclusion of children with disabilities, we have to remember there are some children in early childhood education who have disabilities that have not yet been identified, and there are others who have been diagnosed incorrectly. Inclusion is not about doing a favor to some little kids with disabilities, and “letting’ them spend time with their typically developing peers. It’s about realizing that all children need to be together, learning together, and playing together right from the start.

Early childhood classrooms of the future need to be ready for DECAL:
Different
Experiences
Cultures
Abilities
Languages

There is compelling research showing the benefits of becoming bilingual. If we continue to say that growing up bilingual is good, then we have to support that it is good for all children, not just the “others” who started out with a language other than English as their family language. The more we improve language and culture supports for all children in early childhood, the more we will see achievement gaps fade and outcomes grow.

But to make that happen, we have to be sure all schools are effective for DECAL:
Different
Experiences
Cultures
Abilities
Languages

Children come to school with different languages, cultures and abilities. Their early experiences are also very important factors in shaping their readiness for school. Some children have been read to regularly and have grown up in a stable, supportive environment. Other children grow up in stressful environments, may face trauma, and may have limited early language and literacy exposure. Yet, all of these children will appear in first grade and they all need teachers who are prepared to meet their needs.

Now we need to head for the future and put this new term in the vocabulary of every educator, administrator, policymaker, family member, and child. It’s not just an acronym – it’s a new way of thinking and working together. The time for DECAL has come. How can you build collaborations in your program to encourage all members of an educational team to share their expertise with each other?

by Karen N. Nemeth, Ed.M., Pam Brillante, Ed.D., and Leah J. Mullen, M.A.

Twitter @KarenNemethEdM @PamBrillante

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