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The Inclusion of Children with SEN in the Early Years

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Introduction

This assignment will explore the factors that influence the provision of an inclusive education for children with special educational needs (SEN) in the Early Years. The assignment will begin by giving a brief history of social opinion and policy in order to outline the definitions of integration and inclusion. The value of, and possible barriers to inclusion will be discussed. Finally key points will be reflected upon, highlighting ways forward in this area. The social history of disability and those who are 'different' is full of moral discourse and political persuasion as to how dangerous these people are for society. In 1915, Goddard wrote, "For many generations we have recognised and piled the idiot. Of late we have recognised a higher type of defective, the moron, and have discovered that he is a burden; that he is a menace to society and civilization; that he is responsible to a large degree for many, if not all, of our social problems." (In: Vlachou 1997 p.15) Over time this view has been concealed in humanitarian ideologies as a reason for segregation. Thus, segregation was presented as a way of protecting children from harsh realities and providing for their needs. Vlachou would suggest that, "the popular image of society protecting its more 'vulnerable' citizens has remained, as it was a good policy for masking society's contradictions. ...read more.

Middle

Parents of children with SEN may lack faith in mainstream education, whereas other parents may feel that the attention has been drawn away from their children as more time needs to be spent dealing with disruptive outbursts and one to one tuition. Research into attitudes of professionals including teachers and support staff, as well as students has been mixed. Siraj-Blachford and Clarke (2000) indicate that adult prejudices' can be seen in children as young as three therefore, early years educators are in an ideal position to influence the attitudes of our youngest children signifying that "early years staff need to offer all children guidance and support in developing positive attitudes towards all people." (p.9) The notion that segregation is indeed a factor in prejudice attitudes towards disability and SEN is a well accepted one. Increased contact, familiarity, understanding and friendship between non-disabled and children with disabilities or SEN within the early years, forges acceptance and helps to break down barriers that are at the root of discrimination and prejudice beliefs. Gray (2002 3.9) would agree with this when stating, "Research suggests that preschool children do not put a negative value on difference at this stage.... Lewis and Pretzlik (1999) found that sick and disabled pupils were initially popular with peers and argued on this basis that prejudice was learned rather than instinctive." ...read more.

Conclusion

The current Birth to Three Matters Framework (2002) accepts diversity as 'normal' when stating, "Although their responsibilities may differ, children with disabilities or learning difficulties are entitled to the same range of experiences as others". The Birth to Three matters Framework goes on to discuss how "practitioners" are "well-placed" to recognise and support very young children with SEN and advises that the practitioner gain advice and support by working closely with both parents and SEN support services. The Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage (2000) suggests, "The focus should be on removing barriers for children where these already exist and on preventing learning difficulties from developing." (p.18) However, the current National Curriculum at key stage 1 is far less flexible and would have to be adapted if inclusion is to be successful across the spectrum. Educational priorities and needs differ considerably and the curriculum needs to reflect such diversities in educational need, such as the attainment of self-help skills. For inclusion to be successful early years educators' need to be committed to the concept, persist in the face of failure and act as positive role models not only to the children but the whole community. Some would criticise that full inclusion can only occur in an idealistic sense; this essay shows that problems do exist, namely social attitude and acceptance. Society and the concept of inclusion are ever changing phenomena's however, and early years educators can influence this change in order for inclusion to become a reality. ...read more.

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