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Mainstreaming at the Preschool Level. Including Special Needs Children in Your Typical Preschool. Christine Gillan-Byrne and Robin Aaron. Constructivist Theory of Learning. We learn by constructing our own understandings based upon our experiences.

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Mainstreaming at the Preschool Level

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Mainstreaming at the preschool level

Mainstreaming at the Preschool Level

Including Special Needs Children in Your Typical Preschool

Christine Gillan-Byrne and Robin Aaron

Constructivist theory of learning

Constructivist Theory of Learning

  • We learn by constructing our own understandings based upon our experiences.

  • We are not born as "blank slates" on which to write endless information.

  • What we learn is affected by what we already know....

  • Our experiences are unique, and therefore our understandings are unique.

  • To learn, we apply what we already know to a new situation.

The Summer 2004 issue of Interaction, the journal of the Canadian Child Care Federation, features a series of articles on "Science and Early Learning." As a part of this series, Anita Elworthy outlines the essentials of the constructivist theory of learning...

Mainstreaming at the preschool level

Make a list of individuals who you personally know that have a special need. List special need as well.

For instance:

Father – hearing impaired

Schuyler – Spina bifida

John – Asperger’s Syndrome

Types of special needs



Learning Disabilities

Exceptional Abilities














Types of Special Needs


Special and typical needs

Special and Typical Needs

  • Each child is unique

  • Each child develops and matures at a different rate

  • Typical developmental milestones or characteristics help determine “special need”

  • Approximately 20% of all children can be considered to have a “special need”

Inclusion rationale

Inclusion Rationale

  • State and Federal Laws (search web)

    • IDEA, ADA, P.L. 94-142, P.L. 99-457, P.L. 105-17

  • Better role models

  • Realistic expectations

  • Perception = Reality

  • Develops positive attitudes = empathy

The teacher s role

The Teacher’s Role

  • Be professionally knowledgeable about child development

  • Be observant

  • Document

  • Build a respectful and professional rapport with parents and families

  • Be familiar with and willing to use community resources for appropriate referral

  • Learn all you can!

Reality check

Reality Check

  • Children with special needs need special services.

    • Such services may consist of extra planning, additional training or consultation.

  • It is often possible to provide the necessary special services within the regular setting.

    • The need for additional resources provides opportunities for collaboration and problem-solving.

  • Refer to your list of individuals with special needs

    Refer to your list of individuals with special needs…

    • Briefly describe your feelings toward the individuals on your list.

    • Briefly describe the impact they have had on you.


    Avoid or ignore



    Sadness or pity









    Realistic expectations


    Belief in Potential


    Mainstreaming at the preschool level

    All Children have potential


    all children are capable of learning.

    Mainstreaming at the preschool level


    for the

    Special Needs Child



    • This is Andrew’s first day at your center.

    • It time for outdoor play.

    • Andrew cannot walk.

    What would you do?

    Mainstreaming at the preschool level




    Realistic expectations


    Belief in Potential

    What are some typical developmental milestones in children?

    The child

    The Child

    • Meet the child and parents

    • Encourage family & child to visit center

    • Get acquainted with the individuals

    • Collect background information

    • Learn about the specific disability/need

    • Remember that abilities differ

    Reality check1

    Reality Check

    Not every challenged child can be successfully mainstreamed into a “typical” classroom.

    The classroom

    The Classroom

    Developmentally Appropriate

    • Age Appropriateness

      • physical development

      • emotional development

      • social development

      • cognitive development

    • Individual Appropriateness

      • pattern and timing of growth

      • personality

      • learning style

      • coping skills

      • family background

    Making inclusion successful

    Making Inclusion Successful

    • Purposefully plan lessons

    • Compare child’s performance with past

    • Know the present level of ability

    • Identify the next realistic level of ability

    • Observe behavior and progress

    • Supervise effectively

    • Regular activities first

    • Encourage independence

    Successful mainstreaming

    Physical Inclusion


    Social Integration


    Successful Mainstreaming

    Children with special needs will often learn more from other children than from adults.

    Children with typical needs will also learn from children with special needs.

    Activities designed especially for the child with special needs should include other children whenever possible.

    Be balanced in your efforts.

    Children of typical development

    Children of Typical Development


    • To observe supportive, accepting adults

    • Have established rules

    • Factual information

    • Questions answered

    • Guided perceptions (books, toys, pictures, props, misc. objects)

    • Practice praising

    • Opportunities to explore

    • Pair peers

    • Provide interpretation

    Working with parents

    Working with Parents

    • First teachers

    • Compassion for challenges

    • Communicate and support

    • Collaboratively set realistic expectations

    • Routine enrollment process

    • Educate and reassure

    Working with other agencies

    Working with Other Agencies

    • Document and communicate

    • Be involved

    • Cooperate and collaborate

    • Avoid competitiveness

    Specific strategies

    Specific Strategies

    • Predictability & consistency

    • Organization

    • Familiar objects and images

    • Collaborative games/activities

    • Clearly defined play/work areas

    • Duplicate materials

    • Soothing and relaxing materials

    • Expectations for independence

    • Search for volunteers

    The project approach helping teachers include all children

    The Project ApproachHelping Teachers Include All Children

    • Include more children with special needs in their curriculum planning

    • Learn how to plan for groups of mixed ability or mixed age children

    • Learn new strategies for understanding and documenting learning in nonverbal children

    • Learn that children with special needs are more capable than first imagined

    • Learn to use more open-ended and child-centered activities with a wide variety of materials

    • Increase appreciation for the diversity that children and families bring to programs

    Mary Donegan, Seong Bock Hong, Mary Trepanier-Street, & Caryn Finkelstein. (2005).

    Inclusion plan scenarios p 156

    Physical adaptations

    Program adaptations

    Inclusion Plan Scenarios p. 156

    Is this inclusion plan appropriate for this child and teacher?

    And you

    And You?

    What have you done lately to make your classroom more developmentally appropriate?

    What have you done lately, or in the past, to make your room more individualized?

    Mainstreaming at the preschool level

    Thank you for our attendance and participation



    • I came to this training because…

    • I learned this new information…

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