According to federal data, about 48% of young children experiencing disabilities in Oregon receive all services in preschools and other early learning settings.
And according to a new report, Oregon programs still have a ways to go in being fully inclusive.
“Since the Individuals with Disabilities Act was developed 30 plus years ago, children experiencing disabilities have limited access, or are often asked to leave care even in preschool,” said Oregon Department of Education Early Childhood Coherent Strategies Specialist Meredith Villines.
“So we’re hoping to change that.”
Oregon, along with Illinois, was awarded a national grant to help create a framework for what inclusion should look like in early learning programs. This first of what’s intended to be an annual report released Thursday, the Oregon Early Childhood Inclusion report outlines Oregon’s progress, starting with making sure certain indicators are met across the state.
“The indicators that we’re really focused on are those cross-sector collaborative teams, and really creating and funding professional development supports for everyone who is engaged in the care and education of young children experiencing disabilities,” Villines said.
The report says Oregon is showing improvement, in terms of statewide indicators including policies, funding, and sharing new guidance.
The Senior Leadership Team “has developed a cross‐sector team, increased understanding of early learning policies and current guidance affecting inclusion of children experiencing disability, reviewed the current allocation of resources to support professionals in early care and education, and developed a snapshot of the coordination of professional development resources for those serving young children experiencing disability,” over a 20-month period between February 2020 and October 2021, according to a self-assessment.
Three Oregon counties pointed out in the report also show progress in meeting community indicators including building awareness and providing access to training. As part of the pilot project, community inclusion teams in Multnomah, Clackamas and Lincoln counties meet monthly to work towards making early learning programs in their community more inclusive, serving as a model for other communities.
“We’re hoping to provide technical assistance support so those communities can partner with other members of their community to problem solve and come up with innovative solutions to this complex problem,” Villines said.
Going forward, the three counties plan to “sustain funding and scale inclusive practices.”
The counties have also set goals to bring more children experiencing disabilities into programs: to 30% in Lincoln County, to 60% in Multnomah County, to 65% in Clackamas County by 2023.
The next annual report, Villines said, will likely highlight scenes inside educational settings.
“What’s next is seeing the on-the-ground work, the impacts on programs and how they have been working together in this similar cross-sector fashion, and the impact in the classrooms,” Villines said.