This article addresses a question that is of key importance in preparing early childhood personnel, especially those in inclusive environments: "How do we teach in ways that we want our students to teach?" There is an emphasis on developing a "community of practice" where professionals can share their work-related concerns and passion while learning from the teaching process. Such a collaborative approach among the interrelated fields of child development and early childhood special education is critical in addressing dilemmas stemming from societal beliefs around child development and the complex role of education in children's lives. This, in turn, is expected to facilitate innovative thinking among future educators about creating inclusive programs for all children.
As we were winding down one of the class sessions of the semester, passing out poster board and markers for the students to jot down their ideas about inclusion, one university student, a senior, asked the following question: "I am in my student teaching placement in a public school, and we just found out we are getting a new student diagnosed with autism, and my mentor teacher said, 'Oh, no. We are getting another one of those.' What should I do?" We both found ourselves considering what we wanted to tell her to do and what we should tell her to do.
In the situation described above, a child is about to join an early childhood inclusive program. Young children currently termed "typically developing" share a classroom with children identified as "having special needs." A position paper on early childhood inclusion jointly prepared by the Division for Early Childhood Education (DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) defines the nature of such an inclusive classroom and affirms that "young children with disabilities and their families are full members of the community" (2009, p. 1). The position paper further "reflects a reaction against previous educational practices of separating and isolating children with disabilities" (p. 1). In the previous model, still in evidence today, special education teachers are prepared to work with children with special needs. In the same model, pre-kindergarten child development programs are commonly housed in a variety of college and university settings, such as education, children and family services, and psychology.
Moving beyond that model, Hemmeter, Santos, and Ostrosky (2008) point out that the blending of different philosophical approaches toward working with young children is a key issue for all young children. They further emphasize the need for continued "conversation" between early childhood development and early childhood special education regarding philosophical differences in working with young children.
We enter that "conversation" from two differing perspectives. Barbara's professional home has been in child development and early childhood education. Jody brings professional education and pragmatic experience in special education. We have experience with what are currently termed "typically developing" young children and young children "with disabilities"; Barbara's emphasis has been on the former and Jody's on the latter. The focus of this article is the preparation of those who will work together...