Integrated classrooms began in the mid- to late '70s. Children who were once kept in their own classroom and apart from other children were now allowed and encouraged to spend time with their non-disabled peers. It has taken a long time, but now many a daycare has integrated childcare as well. The idea that children are introduced to others with differing abilities helps all of them understand that they should not be afraid or hateful towards others who are not exactly like them. Additionally, integrated daycare provides all of the following major benefits.
Positive Social Interactions
Children with developmental challenges teach their able-bodied and able-minded peers how to be kind and compassionate. Children without developmental challenges learn how to interact and play with children who may not be able to run, jump, or create and imagine as they do. Problem-solving skills develop as children without these challenges try to figure out new ways to play old favorite games with children that have developmental challenges. Overall, it creates a lot of positive social interaction for all of the children present.
Learning about Different Forms of Communication
Children with special needs often have different ways of communicating. They may communicate via message binders, communication apps on tablets or through sign language. The other children in the classroom learn that, although this is different from talking and hearing, it is still a form of communication. Then the typical children learn these other forms of communication while interacting with their special needs peers.
Children without special needs learn to help others by providing help to their special needs peers. They learn when it is acceptable to provide help (e.g., offering an arm to a child who is blind rather than forcefully guiding the vision-impaired) and how much help is acceptable to give (e.g., giving a child with cerebral palsy a spoon versus feeding him/her like a baby). Raised and taught in such an environment helps a non-disabled child understand that others sometimes need a little help, and they learn how to discern how much help to provide.
Treating Others with RESPECT
Respect is a very difficult thing to teach young children because they do not understand what it means or why it is so valuable. When "abled" children spend a lot of time interacting with special needs children, they tend to learn what respect is, and what it means to someone who already feels awkward or different. You may find that, as your child interacts with other children of different developmental challenges or abilities, that he/she learns respect sooner.
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