Inclusion in Early Childhood Programs

Share & Bookmark, Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

Inclusion in early childhood programs is supported through years of research and reinforced by a strong legal foundation. In a joint policy statement, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) and Education (USED) defines inclusion in early childhood programs as children with disabilities in early childhood programs, together with their peers without disabilities; holding high expectations and intentionally promoting participation in all learning and social activities, facilitated by individualized accommodations; and using evidence-based services and supports to foster their development, friendships with peers, and sense of belonging.


    Two children in preschool class
  • Early Childhood Inclusion Guidelines (PDF)  - This guidance document is designed to assist Virginia’s school divisions and early childhood communities in identifying, developing and sustaining inclusive opportunities within high-quality early childhood programs for children with disabilities.
  • Preschool Inclusion Class Size Guidance Document.(Word) - When including children with disabilities in regular early childhood programs, it is important to carefully consider class size and the proportionate amount or limits to the number of students with IEPs. This resource outlines requirements and regulations that impact the number of students with IEPs placed in a classroom as well as offers guidance for best practice. This resource should be used  to plan and schedule for inclusive classes. This can include VPI, Head Start, Title 1, locally funded, Reverse Inclusion, and community based preschool programs.
  • Virginia's Early Childhood Inclusion Website – Developed by the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) Early Childhood Special Education Network,  Virginia's Early Childhood Inclusion website provides state and national resources to support inclusive practices in early childhood.  Here, you will find information on Improving Inclusive Practices & Outcomes for Preschoolers (IPOP). IPOP is a systems approach to increasing the quantity and quality of inclusion for preschool students with Individual Education Programs (IEPs). It provides a planning guide and accompanying resources to support school divisions’ preschool programs in implementing inclusive practices.
  • VDOE Inclusive Practices Page – This webpage provides videos of projects demonstrating inclusion of children Pre-K through grade 12 in a variety of contexts and provides more information on inclusive practices.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education Joint Position Statement on Inclusion(PDF) - In 2023, the USDOE and the USDHHS issued a second joint policy statement on promoting inclusion in early childhood programs to set a vision on the issue and to provide recommendations to states, local educational agencies (LEAs), schools and public and private early childhood programs.
  • Dear Colleague Letter on Preschool Least Restrictive Environments (PDF) - In 2017, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services updated a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) on Preschool Least Restrictive Environments (LRE). The policy guidance provided key statutory and regulatory requirements, preschool placement options and information related to educational environments data for preschool children with disabilities.