This policy statement, released jointly by the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, states that all young children with disabilities should have access to high-quality inclusive early childhood programs that provide individualized and appropriate support so they can fully participate alongside their peers without disabilities, meet high expectations, and achieve their full potential.
All young children with disabilities should have access to high-quality inclusive early childhood programs that provide individualized and appropriate support so they can fully participate alongside their peers without disabilities, meet high expectations, and achieve their full potential. The responsibility to ensure that young children with disabilities and their families are included in high-quality early childhood programs is shared by federal, State, and local governments, early childhood systems, early childhood programs and providers, local educational agencies (LEAs), and schools.
This policy statement from the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) (the Departments) builds upon our earlier 2015 policy statement with renewed commitment and urgency as children with disabilities continue to face significant barriers accessing and participating in inclusive early childhood programs. This updated joint ED and HHS policy statement for States, LEAs, schools, early intervention (EIS) providers, and early childhood programs advances the Departments’ position by:
- Reiterating the expectation for inclusion in high-quality early childhood programs;
- Setting the expectation that inclusion continues as children transition into elementary school;
- Continuing to increase public awareness and understanding of the latest science that supports inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood programs from the earliest ages;
- Reinforcing the legal foundations supporting inclusion in early childhood;
- Reiterating and updating recommendations for State and local agencies that implement Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) programs, Head Start, child care, home visiting, preschools, and public schools for increasing inclusive early learning opportunities for all children;
- Updating models and exemplars of inclusion; and
- Identifying and sharing resources for States, LEAs, EIS providers, early childhood programs, schools, early childhood personnel, and families to support high-quality individualized programming and inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood programs.
 As used in this document, “children with disabilities” refers to infants and toddlers with disabilities and children with disabilities served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as well as infants and toddlers and children with developmental delays and disabilities who are not receiving services under the IDEA or who are going through the eligibility process to determine if they are eligible for IDEA services.
 As used in this document, “early childhood programs” refer to those that provide early care and education to children birth through age five, including but not limited to childcare centers, family child care, Early Head Start, Head Start, home visiting programs, and public and private pre-kindergarten in-school and community-based settings.
 As used in this document, “State” refers to the 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, outlying areas and jurisdictions, and the freely-associated States.
 A full description of “inclusion in early childhood programs” is on pages 6–7.
 As used in this document, “early childhood personnel” refers to professionals who provide early care and education services to children birth through age five, including public or private preschool teachers, home and center-based child care providers, Head Start and Early Head Start teachers, home visitors, early interventionists, early childhood special educators, and related services personnel.
Last modified on November 28, 2023