Program Increases Inclusion for Preschool Children with Disabilities

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(Lafayette, La.) – A two-year program funded by the Louisiana Department of Education, known as the Preschool Inclusion Project (PIP), released a progress report on Oct. 31, 2013. The goal of the program is to increase opportunities for preschool-aged children with disabilities to be successfully included in high-quality, developmentally appropriate preschool programs and environments, so that no more than 5 percent of these children are served in segregated special education classrooms.

October’s report details the project’s successes, including more than doubling of the number of children with disabilities being placed in inclusive settings (from 52 to 119). The team has conducted cross-agency inclusion training more than 100 community service providers and families to support the program’s goals. The result has been an increase in options for community-based childcare placement (previously zero, now 24) and more children receiving special education services via LA4 and Head Start.

The SpecialQuest Group was contracted by the state to help provide support, training, coaching and facilitation for the project in coordination with local team members. Those members include LPSS administrators and staff, families of preschool children with disabilities, as well as local Head Start, Families Helping Families, Childcare, LA4 programs and other key community partners – more than 20 people in all. The group’s mission is to create a positive, inclusive learning environment for all children.

According to LPSS Director of Early Childhood Christine Duay, “the Preschool Inclusion Project has helped to foster an environment in which all children are supported and provided with positive opportunities for learning.” The success of the program’s first two years has resulted in an additional year of funding to extend through September 2014.