This assignment intends to explore the concept of an Inclusive Environment within Early Learning and Care settings. The definition of an inclusive environment will be mentioned within the assignment. Additionally, two examples of inclusive practice will be explored. However, it can be acknowledged that for some children difficulties may arise within free play. This assignment intends to explore some of these difficulties while also providing an approach which could assist children to partake in free-play effectively. “Inclusive practice is underpinned by the belief that all children have certain inherent rights by belonging to the human race” (Mhic Mhatúna and Taylor 2012, p.169). These inherent rights allow the children to successfully partake in an inclusive environment in an Early Learning and Care setting.
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The concept of inclusion connects to learning. Brunch (1999), acknowledges that we learn to talk through talking, to write through writing, read through reading and include through including (MIC 2019 a). Mhic Mhathúna and Taylor (2012 p.168) define inclusion as “all children in an educational environment play, learn and work together at their respective developmental levels, in co-operation with each other, within a shared curriculum”. Similarly the Office of the Minister for Children (2006) recognise the concept of inclusion to be a progression which includes a child’s curriculum and or school setting, acknowledging that all children are equivalent and fully capable of reaching their full potential (MIC 2019 a). Therefore it can be acknowledged that through inclusion an inclusive culture and environment are created. In order for early childhood teachers to create an inclusive environment, preparation is key. According to Donohoe and Gaynor (2007) a settings indoor environment should endorse a child’s independence and responsibility, let the child’s voice be heard during decision making, urge the child’s involvement and recognise that all children have different abilities, developmental stages, play stages and interests. Through all these aspects it is important that an indoor environment allows the child to have the opportunity to express and be creative, experience music, a variety of open ended materials and age and stage appropriate toys and materials. Children should also have the opportunity to access a well-resourced library where they can take some quiet time and relax while looking at a book (MIC 2019 b). Linking to the Aistear theme of Well-Being children should be able to “express themselves through a variety of types of play”, inviting areas such as a home corner, or well planned construction area should be placed within the inclusive environment (NCCA 2009, p17). In comparison in the outdoor area, an inclusive environment should still be achieved. Donohoe and Gaynor acknowledged that “children’s developmental needs do not change because they are outdoors” (MIC 2019), therefore early childhood teachers should prepare a well-designed outdoors play space which include all of the above.
An example of an inclusive culture seen within an early childhood inclusive setting would be the use of person first language. McCoy and DeCecco (2011, p.2) mentions that “respectful language paves the way for respectful attitudes and behaviors”. Person-first language allows the teacher to concentrate on the whole child rather than an additional need they may have. Down Syndrome Ireland (2019) campaigns that “A person is much more than a label”. Within a setting teachers should never use terms such as ‘Sarah is Autisic’ or ‘The blind girl’, teachers should use terms such as ‘Sarah has Autism’ or ‘Sarah has a visual impairment’. Through using person-first language a change in societal outlooks towards inclusion would be altered (MIC 2019 a).
Another example of change within settings towards inclusive opportunities would be through the child’s story experience. The story experience helps adults to enhance their relationship with the children, trigger imagination and creativity, increase vocabulary and language skills while also teaching the children about the world around them (MIC 2019 c). One way of implementing the above would be through the introduction of story sacks or story aprons. Through story sacks a story is brought to life through props, puppets, pictures or other materials. These materials support the children to engage in role play activities where they may not have engaged in before. Story sacks are a great way to promote inclusion. For example, a child where English may not be their first language, the story sack could include some pictures from the story with the name translated into their language to allow the child to become more engrossed in the storytelling experience. Hamilton and Weiss (2005 p. 5) mentions that “audience members are actively involved in the process, storytelling becomes a shared experience”. Therefore to allow for a shared experience, all children should be included.
Through play “young children’s natural curiosity can be stimulated to help them learn effectively through providing first hand experiences and opportunities to explore, investigate and problem solve” (MIC 2019 d). Free-play allows children to learn their own learning and development. Johnson et al (2005) believes that during free-play children have the option of where, what and who they want to play. However through free-play some difficulties may arise. For the purpose of this assignment focus will be on the difficulty a child has on transitions within a setting. Graham (2012) tells us that successful transitions are vital for all children. Children with additional needs or those from minority or majority groups may find transitions a challenge. Through early years teachers building effective transitions, daily experiences become lessoned and coping skills will begin to improve for each child. Gallick et al (2011 cited in Graham 2012 p. 84) believes that “transitions tend to be some of the most difficult and stressful moments in an early childhood [setting]”. They acknowledged that if the child is feeling uncomfortable or annoyed during transitioning, the early childhood teacher may need to relook at the class schedule in order to meet the child’s needs. This can be seen on the ground level where numerous children within a setting found it difficult transitioning. For this the setting relooked at the daily routine and schedule and introduced a visual aid timer to help the particular children in transitioning.
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As mentioned above, an approach to aid transitioning includes a visual timer. Within the aim resource pack setting received some sand timers. According to Aim (2018) sand times “can be used to support transitions and problem solving within the daily routine”. Sand timers are a great resource to give children a visual image of time. Through the use sand timers for transitioning, children’s social and emotional development is improved. Sand timers help children to understand and control time therefore supporting their self-regulation and independence within the classroom routine. Along with supporting transitions sand timers also help develop language, communication and literacy development. Through the use of timers the child can signify their desires to their peers or adults (Graham 2017). Within the setting where the children who found it difficult transitioning, the use of the timer improved their transitioning greatly. The children now understand that ‘in 5 minutes it is clean up time’ or ‘in 5 minutes it is time for outdoor play’. Through staff collaboration further steps for transitions will be implemented. For now timers are an effective practice to use (Aim 2018).
The Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Charter (2016) referred that inclusive practice should “ensure that children of all abilities have equal access to culturally and developmentally appropriate play-based educational activities, both indoors and outdoors, which develop their understanding, dispositions, skills and holistic development” (DCYA 2014, p.5). From the examples mentioned previously of inclusive practice it can be acknowledged that it is of huge importance. Free-play also connects to a setting having an inclusive environment and inclusive practice. Although some difficulties may arise during free-play, different approaches can be used to aid with these. As mentioned before, all children have the right to an inclusive environment and practice.
- Aim (2018) Aim Inclusive Play Information Guide [online], Available: https://play.aim.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Aim-Inclusive-Play-Information-Guide.pdf [accessed 29 October 2019].
- Donohoe, J. and Gaynor, F. (2007) Education and Care in the Early Years: An Irish Perspective, 3rd edition. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan.
- Down Syndrome Ireland (2019) Person First Language [online], available: https://downsyndrome.ie/person-first-language/ [accessed 26 October 2019].
- Graham, I. (2017) Realising Potential: Equality, Diversity and Inclusive Practice in Early Years, Dublin: Barnardos.
- Hamilton, M. and Weiss, M. (2005) Excerpt from Children Tell Stories: Teaching and Using Story-Telling in the Classroom, available: https://www.rcowen.com/PDFs/CTS%20Ch%201%20for%20website.pdf [accessed 21 October 2019].
- Johnson, J., Christie, J., Wardle, F. (2005) Play, development and early education, Boston: Pearson Education Inc.
- A :Mary Immaculate College (MIC) (2019) ‘Introduction to Inclusion, LINC 1: Inclusion in Early Years Settings: Concepts and Strategies [online], available: https://moodle.mic.ul.ie/pluginfile.php/187086/mod_scorm/content/4/index_lms_html5.html [accessed 21 October 2019].
- B:Mary Immaculate College (MIC) (2019) ‘Working towards an inclusive culture, LINC 1: Inclusion in Early Years Settings: Concepts and Strategies [online], available: https://moodle.mic.ul.ie/pluginfile.php/213861/mod_scorm/content/2/index_lms_html5.html [accessed 21 October 2019].
- C: Mary Immaculate College (MIC) (2019) ‘Supporting inclusive experiences, LINC 1: Inclusion in Early Years Settings: Concepts and Strategies [online], available: https://moodle.mic.ul.ie/pluginfile.php/215069/mod_scorm/content/3/index_lms_html5.html [accessed 26 October 2019].
- D: Mary Immaculate College (MIC) (2019) ‘Child Development Through Play’ LINC 1: Inclusion in Early Years Settings: Concepts and Strategies [online], available: https://moodle.mic.ul.ie/pluginfile.php/235567/mod_scorm/content/4/index_lms_html5.html [accessed 26 October 2019].
- National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (2019) Principles and Themes, Dublin: The Stationary Office.
- McCoy, V.A., & DeCecco, P.G. (2011) Person-first language and training needed in higher education [online], available: https://www.counseling.org/resources/library/vistas/2011-v-online/Article_05.pdf [accessed 21 October 2019].
- Mhic Mhathúna, M. and Taylor, M., eds. (2012) Early Childhood Education & Care: An Introduction for Students in Ireland, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.
- Whitebread, D. & Coltman, P. (2011) Young children as self- regulating learners. In J. Moyles, J. Georgeson & J. Payler (Eds.), Beginning teaching: Beginning learning: in early years and primary education (pp.122-138). Maidenhead: Open University Press.
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