FunShine Tells: Maintaining an Inclusive Classroom

This post will explore how to best support young children with disabilities. Let’s start by simply defining disability. A disability refers to a condition that makes it challenging for people to do certain activities or interact with their environment. Particular requirements may include the need to support mobility, communication, feeding, behavior, or any other skill or function so that the person can thrive and learn in everyday situations and environments. This is where inclusion, classroom adaptations, and developmentally appropriate practices play an essential role in early childhood.

Being aware of the needs, limitations, and capabilities of the children in our care will allow us to enter their world with understanding, tolerance, and respect. It is our job and responsibility as educators to understand the things we can do better to ensure each child has an enriching learning experience.

When working with all children, educators should:

  1. Work in small groups
  2. Give short and precise instructions
  3. Teach through a topic that relates to them
  4. Maintain excellent communication with parents or guardians
  5. Repeat lessons that meant a lot to them
  6. Make sure that each object in the room can be used as a teachable tool

Children may demonstrate developmental delays or the need for intervention at an early age. However, this will vary for every child. There are many diagnoses in children and adults and many techniques to work and support children with disabilities. Below, I mention several suggestions for common needs that you can apply in your daily interactions with children to support their learning. You can also print these tips as a handout to share.


  • make sure you have the child’s attention before speaking
  • use sign language
  • label all areas of the room with pictures and names
  • use the child’s favorite language, e.g., affective language, sounds, or pictures
  • use clear and simple language
  • repeat and summarize information


  • respect space
  • keep routine consistent
  • promote independence
  • avoid overstimulation or distractions
  • teach social skills directly

Physical Development

  • invite continuous use of both hands
  • play board games
  • offer regular outdoor time
  • offer regular exposure to music and rhythm
  • create obstacle courses together


  • provide a calm environment
  • emphasize routine
  • offer help as a technique when redirecting a behavior
  • minimize distractions
  • focus on the positives

Down Syndrome

  • speak directly to the child
  • use clear and short sentences
  • use visual illustrations
  • focus on the child’s abilities
  • break down directions into smaller steps
  • allow adequate response time to questions/requests


  • offer flexible seating
  • set up a quiet work space
  • use a written and guided schedule
  • factor in movement and brain breaks
  • offer fidgets

Some final advice I can offer is to educate yourself about the laws and regulations that protect children with disabilities, participate in support groups, use resources within your community, and read books or articles that are intended to be an educational tool for educators like you, who are always looking for more and for what is best for their students.

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