by Terri Clark, M.Ed
Space Coast Early Intervention Center, Executive Director
Inclusive schools benefit ALL children! Since the early 80’s, educational practices have been moving away from the practice of segregating students with disabilities for specialized instruction, and moving towards a more inclusive model. This has been a challenge. At Space Coast Early Intervention Center (SCEIC), we have been providing an inclusion program since our beginnings. We are the only preschool in Brevard County equipped and trained for inclusion.
The vision expands this fall as we open an inclusive Kindergarten class for the first time. Why should your child participate in an inclusion program? “Inclusion is in the best interests of all children and is most effective when enacted as early as possible.” – Henninger and Gupta
Benefits of inclusion apply to ALL students, their families, and the community.
- Through family participation in an inclusion program, the entire family learns the value of differences and carries this knowledge into their communities.
- ALL children develop a positive understanding of themselves and others – that all people belong to our community and can have a rewarding experience.
- Development of self-esteem – through learning to respect the differences and contributions of other individuals, children develop a healthy self-esteem.
- As a role model, children learn altruistic behavior, accept differences, and discover similarities. ALL children can be role models as they discover their unique gifts.
- Developing friendships with those who are different teaches ALL children how to cope with challenges, developing problem solving, social and communication skills through team work.
- ALL children can receive differentiated instruction when appropriate.
Children are growing, acquiring knowledge, skills, and abilities in all areas of life so quickly, that the earlier they are exposed to an inclusive environment the more quickly and easily they will benefit. Providing ALL children with high-quality classrooms and instruction reaps tremendous gains in all developmental areas. Using evidence-based practices, teachers can design a class to facilitate the involvement of ALL children with and without disabilities. When children are immersed in an inclusive school program, they will approach diverse people and situations with greater acceptance and understanding, even as adults.
As a former teacher and parent of a special needs child, I saw too quickly how the system was demanding that I squeeze these square peg children into the school’s round holes. With the opening of our Kindergarten, SCEIC will be providing a child-centered educational program that meets the unique needs of ALL students. At SCEIC we understand that all means ALL, and that no child, no matter their level or abilities, should be left out. Our vision is that “Children of ALL abilities will have access to quality, individualized education that will provide them with the academic and social skills needed to succeed in life.”
With more than 30 years of experience as an educator, Terri Clark’s passion is working with special needs children. Currently serving as the Executive Director for Space Coast Early Intervention Center, she has championed inclusive classrooms for children with disabilities; served in a number of leadership roles within the Brevard Public School system and the community, and has been named Teacher of the Year at both the elementary and middle school levels. For more information please visit www.sceic.com.