The Natural Allies project developed, implemented, evaluated, and disseminated a model to yield change and improve community college coursework and practical experiences related to serving young children with disabilities in inclusive natural environments. The project sought to bring about change by addressing two main needs: 1) the large number of early childhood teachers who need preparation to serve young children with diverse abilities in inclusive settings; and 2) the early childhood teacher preparation programs, faculty, and administrators at community colleges who need training and support on infusing exceptionality into their curricula to address the needs of young children with disabilities.
Values of the project included building on existing resources and expertise, campus-community collaboration, and team-based, ecological approaches that included the participation of family, campus, community, and state agency partners in personnel development efforts.
Main features of the Natural Allies implementation plan included:
- working with family members, adults with disabilities, early childhood faculty, early childhood teachers, early interventionists, and state agencies in eight states to identify priorities for change in early childhood teacher preparation;
- providing instructional resources and educational experiences, including a four-day intensive institute, to teams of faculty, community, family, and state agency representatives;
- facilitating the development of state and individual action plans for improving the quality of community college preparation, and;
- providing technical assistance over an 18-month period in support of the action plans.