Inclusive Early Care & Education Mission & Vision
The Center on Inclusive Education (CIE) at the Institute on Disability/UCED at the University of New Hampshire advances the view that disability is a natural part of the human experience and promotes the inclusion of all students within general education classrooms and school communities.
The CIE accomplishes its mission through (a) personnel preparation, (b) professional development and technical assistance, (c) research, (d) systems transformation, (e) leadership development, (f) dissemination of information and resources, and (g) fostering a culture of inclusion.
Why Inclusive Education
Through years of dedication and determination, countless educators, students, and parents in schools across the country have worked to support inclusive education, and have confirmed what reports have shown for decades: that inclusion raises the level of academic success for many students, with and without disabilities, and often costs less in the long run.
But system-wide change is not easy. And effective change that is sustained over time requires a commitment at all levels – from the way we prepare teachers in our universities to the way we test students in our schools.
In 1987, struggling with the question of how and where to place students newly released from the last of the state’s institutional schools, a small group of academics at UNH suggested a radical idea: include these students in the regular classrooms at their local public schools.
In the years following, this team – now the researchers, educators, and program directors of the Institute on Disability – worked to develop the practices and supports needed to make inclusion work in New Hampshire and across the country. They revamped teacher preparation programs to prepare Inclusion Facilitators who could adapt curriculum materials, coach other teachers, and act as inclusion promoters in their schools. They sent teams into schools to train teachers and paraprofessionals. And they trained parents to become better advocates for their children and to hold schools accountable for meeting the obligations of IDEA.
Within a few short years, New Hampshire schools were regarded as national models for educating children with disabilities. And educators, parents, and policymakers across the country were turning to the IOD for the ideas, the tools, and the practices to make inclusive education work.
Over the past two decades, the IOD has continued to innovate and to provide schools across the country with evidence-based models for improving education. Today, projects are underway to redesign academic assessments, improve supports for students with behavioral and emotional disorders, and prepare teachers to integrate assistive technologies in their classrooms.
Preparing High Quality Professionals
For the IOD, improved education is about teaching better, rather than fixing students with disabilities. Through pre-service and in-service personnel preparation programs, the IOD prepares educators, administrators, speech-language pathologists, and others to be innovative thinkers and effective leaders in their fields. Through IOD conferences, workshops, professional learning communities, and technical assistance programs, educators receive continuing instruction and support in best practices in inclusive education.
Innovations in Education
The IOD continues to pioneer new ways to support fully inclusive classrooms, from Head Start through higher education. For example, as educators across the country work to meet the demands of growing numbers of students with complex developmental challenges, the IOD is redefining how early childhood educators screen for and respond to key developmental indicators, bridging tested problem-solving models for both reading readiness and behavioral intervention to address problems early on.
Through a wide range of demonstration projects accompanied by rigorous research, IOD staff are producing evidence-based practices and policies that eliminate barriers to inclusion and support success in the classroom.
Empowering Students and Families
In New Hampshire and across the country, the programs that have been introduced over the past decades to ensure that individuals with disabilities are included, rather than isolated and ostracized, in our communities have often been led by engaged, educated families of students with disabilities who actively worked to reform the dismal conditions in which many people with disabilities once received education, treatment, and care.
Every day, new students and family members are being trained and mobilized to join this corps of leaders and advocates. This includes high school students with and without disabilities gaining the skills and self-confidence to take active roles in shaping inclusive communities. And individuals with disabilities and their family members who are empowered to guide their schools, their neighbors, and their legislators in embracing inclusion.
Building a Culture of Inclusion
From the beginning, the IOD has insisted that there is a different way to think about people with disabilities – demanding that the IDEA means more than a segregated classroom at the end of the hall, and consistently working to change the context of the conversation about students with disabilities. From advising state and national leaders in the shaping of education policies and practices, to promoting public discourse through award-winning documentary films, the IOD champions the development of communities where all are engaged.