The number of 3- to 5-year-olds with disabilities in regular classrooms has been on the rise for the past decade, increasing by 32 percent between 1992 and 2001, according to the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs. While most preschool classrooms have at least one child with a disability, teachers often have little or no training in educating and caring for these children. In fact, a recent study by FPG researchers found that while early intervention and special education are part of the mission of many teacher preparation programs, coursework and training often fall short.
The National Professional Development Center on Inclusion (NPDCI) developed products and worked with states to ensure that early childhood teachers are prepared to educate and care for young children with disabilities in settings with their typically developing peers. NPDCI brought together the leaders within a state who provide professional development related to inclusion including groups as diverse as child care providers, Head Start teachers, pre-kindergarten teachers, preschool disability specialists, higher education students, and family members to assist states in creating a state system of high quality, cross-sector professional development to support inclusion. The cross-sector approach meant that diverse perspectives–agencies, organizations, higher education, and families–were incorporated in all aspects of the professional development system.