Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Pre-School

In 2010 the Department of Health asked the National Disability Authority to advise on the development of provisions for the inclusion of children with disabilities in the Early Childhood Care and Education scheme. This was based on the available research and evidence of practice for how similar schemes are administered in other countries.

The National Disability Authority reviewed the available Irish and international literature and reviewed the systems in place in a number of other countries to support the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream pre-school programmes and submitted our report to the Department in 2011.

Based on that evidence the National Disability Authority advised:

  • All children should as far as possible receive their pre-school education in mainstream early childhood care and education (ECCE) settings

  • Supports for inclusion should not be attached to the individual child with a disability but should be directed at the whole ECCE setting

  • One-to-one support for the whole day or session should be an atypical form of support for a small minority of children who will need this intensity of support

  • Peripatetic, interdisciplinary teams, which include special education expertise, should support pre-schools within a defined catchment area

  • Simple short assessments of needs rather than establishing a diagnosis should be the focus of assessment for additional pre-school support

  • Health (therapy) supports should typically be delivered on-site and focus on supporting ECCE teachers who will be with the child every day

Access and Inclusion Model

Our report was used to inform the development of the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), a programme of universal and targeted support for children with disabilities in ECCE.

We sat on the Inter-Departmental Group, whose 2015 report Supporting Access to the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme for Children with a Disability set out the model that became the AIM programme.

We have been members of the AIM Project Group (responsible for AIM implementation) since 2015 and the AIM Cross-Sectoral Implementation Group (responsible for oversight) since 2016. We were also members of the AIM 3 Year Evaluation Oversight Group.