Preschool and kindergarten are exciting milestones when our children move out from home and into the community. For children with disabilities, starting kindergarten isn’t as simple as registering at the local school. There will be testing and Individualized Educational Program meetings, goal writing, and a placement decision deciding where your child can go to school. There are often folks at the table that you do not know, and that do not know your child. Parents should never have to feel alone and unsure during a wonderfully exciting time when their child is transitioning to kindergarten.
Our Getting Ready for Kindergarten program is presented in partnership with Multnomah Early Childhood Education Program (MECP). This opportunity provides skilled parent mentors in group and 1:1 support in Spanish and English; information about special education rights and inclusive best practices; a network of other skilled parents who have been in their shoes; training on Assistive Technology, Person Centeredness, Behavior, Visuals, Communication, and Special Education Rights, and support that meets parents where they are at.
The Kindergarten readiness program offers facilitators who have walked in your shoes and understand that parents are the experts on their children, partnering with professionals and speakers in the field of special education.
Inclusion of students with an Intellectual Developmental Disability (IDD) is a research-driven best practice. In the All Born In work over the years, we have flipped the number of students included in Kindergarten, with 9 out of 10 going into inclusive placements in contrast to national data showing that 9 out of 10 students with IDD spend 80% or more of their day in segregated settings. We know separate is not equal and we work to end segregation based on disability as part of all of our wider work.
The least restrictive environment with services and support is where everyone should start out. More restrictive environments should be reserved as a last resort after all options have been exhausted. Everyone deserves to belong and contribute and not be judged based on their disability.
We support high expectations for every child, and students should not have to earn their way into general education classrooms. Many children have already been successful in inclusive preschool settings and we know from research the value of learning alongside non-disabled peers. ABI’s Angela Jarvis Holland sits on the state leadership team for High Quality Inclusion in Early Childhood. Kindergarten inclusion is a civil rights frontier that could change so much in one generation. Everyone deserves to belong and be a full part of the community.