Biden-Harris Administration Introduces Revised Tool to Aid Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs

The joint-policy statement on supporting the inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood programs has been released by the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (the Departments).

An updated version of the statement, called the HHS-ED Policy Statement on the Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs, has been announced. This new statement builds upon the original one released in 2015 and emphasizes the continued need for inclusive early childhood programs for children with disabilities. The update was carried out in alignment with President Biden’s Executive Order on Increasing Access to High-Quality Care and Supporting Caregivers that directed both agencies to take action.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona stated, “Our nation’s youngest learners – including those with disabilities – deserve access to high-quality early childhood programs that nurture their potential and provide a strong foundation for future success.” He further emphasized the commitment of the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to promote inclusivity in early childhood programs.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra emphasized that the responsibility to ensure the inclusion of young children with disabilities in high-quality early childhood programs is a shared one among the government, early childhood systems, and schools. Becerra stated, “Together, we can ensure every child with disabilities can participate in high-quality early childhood programs.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are over 61 million adults with disabilities in the U.S., and approximately one out of every six children has a developmental delay. Both the Departments aim to create a culture of inclusion for individuals with disabilities, starting from birth and continuing into early childhood programs, schools, communities, and workplaces.

Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Glenna Wright-Gallo highlighted the importance of inclusive early childhood programs in setting the stage for continued inclusion in later years. Wright-Gallo said, “Setting high expectations for early inclusion paves the way for children with disabilities to reach their goals and to learn, live, and thrive in school and in their communities.”

Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families Jeff Hild stressed that all children benefit from inclusive early childhood settings and called upon leaders at all levels of government to ensure that children with disabilities and their families are welcomed and supported in such settings.

The joint-policy statement reinforces expectations for inclusive early childhood settings and provides updated recommendations for state and local agencies responsible for implementing programs such as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) programs, Head Start, childcare, home visiting, preschool, and public schools. The statement also includes evidence-based models and examples of inclusion, along with resources to assist programs and others in supporting high-quality individualized programming and the inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood programs.

To access the HHS-ED Policy Statement on the Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs and to learn more, please visit: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/idea-files/policy-statement-inclusion-of-children-with-disabilities-in-early-childhood-programs/.

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