It is 8:30 on a crisp September morning, the start of a busy day for preschoolers at the Waisman Center’s Early Childhood Program, a nationally renowned laboratory school.
At a piano in the gym, a teacher holds a 4-year-old named Michael in her lap and helps him tap out “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” She speaks to him using both sign language and a singsong voice. Several other boys driving toy cars swerve around another teacher doing duty as traffic cop. A student teacher is coloring at a table with students. In a corner of the gym, two girls are playing house. “This is your bed, Baby Kitty. Go to sleep right NOW!” one of them says. A tiny child with big brown eyes, named Caroline, curls up on a mat and pretends to sleep.
The kindness and patience shown by these preschoolers as their teachers help them to negotiate their way is all the more remarkable given that several of them, including Michael and Caroline, who have Down syndrome, are special-needs students, a population that is just now being truly integrated — however imperfectly — into public schools.
Read more here: Model preschool program emphasizes inclusion for children with disabilities.
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