FPG’s ECTA partners with MCIE on Think Inclusive podcast
Think Inclusive, a podcast from the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education (MCIE), has expanded its focus to early childhood inclusion, thanks to a recent partnership between the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) at the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) and MCIE. Going forward, the podcast—which for the past 10 years has focused on conversations around inclusive education in kindergarten through grade 12—will also include three to four episodes on early childhood inclusion, each year through September 2027 as part of this collaborative partnership.
ECTA Technical Assistance Specialists Jani Kozlowski, MA, and Catasha Williams, MEd, who leads the inclusion team at ECTA, joined podcast host and MCIE director of communications Tim Villegas to launch the initial early childhood episode in November. That episode, which features Valerie Williams, director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education, highlights the federal position that "all young children with disabilities should have access to high-quality inclusive early childhood programs that provide individualized and appropriate support so they can fully participate alongside their peers without disabilities, meet high expectations, and achieve their full potential." Another available episode features Lori Miranda, Director of Pre-K Exceptional Student Education (ESE) in Palm Beach County, Florida. Those two episodes have already been downloaded more than 1,300 times.
“Think Inclusive has historically focused on inclusive practices in K-12 settings,” says Villegas. “With the collaboration with ECTA, we can now focus on early childhood inclusive education topics as well and bring to light the amazing work ECTA does in supporting states across the country.”
As Villegas’s guest last year on Think Inclusive to promote her book, Every Child Can Fly: An Early Childhood Educators Guide to Inclusion, Kozlowski recognized that the podcast provides an opportunity to highlight work on early childhood inclusion happening across the nation. Noting that inclusion in early childhood sets the trajectory for young children and leads to inclusion in elementary school, middle school, high school, and life, Kozlowski stresses the importance of creating a bridge to the K - 12 system.
“I love the fact that the podcast is about storytelling,” says Kozlowski. “In our work in early childhood inclusion, we share data, do strategic planning, and get collaborative partners to the table. But there aren't many spaces where we can have people tell their story, which is what changes hearts and minds.”
“I love the fact that the podcast is about storytelling,” says Kozlowski. “In our work in early childhood inclusion, we share data, do strategic planning, and get collaborative partners to the table. But there aren't many spaces where we can have people tell their story, which is what changes hearts and minds.” Kozlowski says that research shows that the biggest barriers to inclusion are the attitudes and beliefs held by educators and administrators. “You might think it's funding or policies, but it comes down to the attitudes and beliefs that we hold, and we get to that through storytelling.”
Kozlowski and Williams draw from their extensive early childhood inclusion network to suggest stories for the podcast. They share their ideas and contacts with Villegas who then arranges and conducts the interviews, edits, and produces the podcast. Upcoming guests include: ECTA community partner Meredith Villines, early childhood strategies specialist with the Oregon Department of Education; Co-Principal Investigators for the ECTA Center, Christina Kasprzak, MA, and Megan Vinh, PhD; and other state and local early childhood inclusion leaders.
While Kozlowski and Williams say that the primary audience for their podcast episodes is educators and administrators in early intervention and early childhood education, they are excited to reach educators and leaders in the K-12 space as well. And they hope that the audience grows to include families who—through hearing what is happening in other parts of the country—will be able to better understand all the possibilities for their children.
“With this podcast, we're pushing into this space that is traditionally for school age children so we can explore and expand the vision for inclusion for young children,” she says. “I hope that this work sheds light on accessibility and the fact that inclusion is not elusive and can be done with intentionality.”
Williams says that by using practical, real-world examples of successful early childhood inclusion, with a focus on equity, these podcast episodes will help community members take the steps to do what’s right for children and families. “With this podcast, we're pushing into this space that is traditionally for school age children so we can explore and expand the vision for inclusion for young children,” she says. “I hope that this work sheds light on accessibility and the fact that inclusion is not elusive and can be done with intentionality.”