In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Young Children and Inclusion

  • Introduction
  • Reviews of Literature
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Dissertations
  • Philosophy of Inclusion
  • Politics of Inclusion
  • Inclusion and Developmental Differences
  • Inclusion and Culture in Early-Childhood Education
  • Children’s Perspectives on Inclusion
  • Parental Perspectives on Inclusion
  • Teacher Perspectives on Inclusion
  • Inclusive Practices

Childhood Studies Young Children and Inclusion
Annabella Cant
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 November 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 November 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0232


Inclusive education is the focus of many thinkers, researchers, teachers, early-childhood educators, and policymakers. It is a current concern of most Western societies. The concept of inclusive education was introduced only in the 1990s, when it replaced the previous concepts of integration and mainstreaming; however, the expressed need and advocacy for inclusion go further back in history. The enormous shift is still felt by many educational institutions. The shift means that it is not the job of the child to adapt to the typical environment, but it is the complex educational ecosystem that needs to be ready for caring, educating, and ensuring success to all children, with or without diversabilities. The necessary progression is one from considering diverse groups of children in an equalizing way, to considering them in an equitable way. Inclusive early-childhood education proposes an environment catered around the unique needs of each child within the classroom. As in many other areas of education, change needs to start early, and, yet, research about the inclusion of young and very young children is not overwhelmingly prevalent. In the 2020s, inclusive practice refers to all differences, not only the ones affecting children’s physical and mental health, including race, gender, culture, ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status, age, etc. If young children grow up in homes and educational environments infused with inclusion, they may become more comfortable engaging in discourses of inequality and exclusion. If their learning environment models positive and genuine relationship building with anyone around them, regardless of their difference, children will grow up being advocates for and allies of the people whom society keeps on silencing. Early inclusion is paramount. So, what hinders the universal adoption of inclusive practices in early-childhood education? Among factors that constitute barriers of inclusion, we find politics, resources, support, teacher education, parents’ and teachers’ perceptions and needs, different philosophical interpretations of the concept of early inclusion, and many others. The current studies in the field of early-childhood inclusion show that there is an acute need for knowledge, collaboration, and support. Parents, policymakers, teachers, and other decision-making adults should start giving children agency and invite them to contribute to decisions that concern their well-being. Being inclusive in early-childhood education means to have trust in the competency of all young children, to cherish difference, to cultivate a respectful learning environment, to work with heart, to welcome and build strong relationships with families of all children, to be in touch with current research in the field of inclusive education, and to see inclusion as a feeling of belonging, being valued, and being respected. Inclusion is fluid as a river, but these are the stones that should always guide its course and flow.

Reviews of Literature

A literature review of research in inclusion, spanning more than thirty years, is included in Amor, et al. 2019. The authors of Bartolo, et al. 2016 wish to bridge the gap between policy and practice regarding children of war zone immigrant families in the United Kingdom. The factors of quality inclusion are investigated in Bellour, et al. 2017. The concepts of friendship and other social relationships are reviewed in Krone and Yu 2019 and Webster and Carter 2007. The concept of “funds of knowledge” is reviewed in the context of inclusion in Llopart and Esteban-Guitart 2018. Main and Konza 2017 investigates inclusive approaches to teaching literacy to children from Australian Aboriginal cultures and to Torres Strait Islander children.

  • Amor, Antonio M., Mayumi Hagiwara, Karrie A. Shogren, et al. “International Perspectives and Trends in Research on Inclusive Education: A Systematic Review.” International Journal of Inclusive Education 23.12 (2019): 1277–1295.

    This review focuses on thirty years of research in inclusive education, considering articles written in English and Spanish. Available online by subscription.

  • Bartolo, Paul A., Eva Björck-Åkesson, Climent Giné, and Mary Kyriazopoulou. “Ensuring a Strong Start for All Children: Inclusive Early Childhood Education and Care.” In Special Issue: Implementing Inclusive Education: Issues in Bridging the Policy-Practice Gap. Edited by Amanda Watkins and Cor Meijer. International Perspectives on Inclusive Education 8 (2016): 19–35.

    The authors engage with the current issue of special educational needs of children from families that recently immigrated from war zones to the United Kingdom.

  • Bellour, Flora, Paul A. Bartolo, and Mary Kyriazopoulou. Inclusive Early Childhood Education: Literature Review. Odense, Denmark: European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, 2017.

    The goal of this literature review was to find and analyze factors that determine a high-quality inclusive pedagogical practice in early-childhood education.

  • Krone, Margaret Walden, and Seon Yeong Yu. “Promoting Friendship Development in Inclusive Early Childhood Classrooms: A Literature Review.” International Journal of Early Childhood Special Education. 11.2 (2019): 183–193.

    The authors’ intention was to investigate the aspect of friendship in diverse groups of young children. The reviewed publications span between 1990 and 2018.

  • Llopart, Mariona, and Moisès Esteban-Guitart. “Funds of Knowledge in 21st Century Societies: Inclusive Educational Practices for Under-represented Students; A Literature Review.” Journal of Curriculum Studies 50.2 (2018): 145–161.

    The authors review ninety-two peer-reviewed publications that engage with the concept of “funds of knowledge” from the perspective of inclusive practice.

  • Main, Susan, and Deslea Konza. “Inclusive Reading Practices for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Students in Australia.” In Inclusive Principles and Practices in Literacy Education. Edited by Marion Milton, 177–194. International Perspectives on Inclusive Education 11. Bingley, UK: Emerald, 2017.

    This chapter focuses on inclusive approaches used to teach reading to children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The authors consider the importance of using inclusive approaches to teaching that are evidence based.

  • Webster, Amanda A., and Mark Carter. “Social Relationships and Friendships of Children with Developmental Disabilities: Implications for Inclusive Settings; A Systematic Review.” Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability 32.3 (2007): 200–213.

    This review follows the topic of social relationships in the context of children with developmental disabilities.

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