Naming the New, Inclusive Early Childhood Education: All Teachers Ready for DECAL!

by Karen N. Nemeth, Ed.M., Pam Brillante, Ed.D., and Leah J. Mullen, M.A.

What do we need to see in early childhood education now and in the future? The days of fragmented programs where children and teachers are divided according to special needs and special skills are over. Silos don’t work. Isolating children and practitioners from each other is bad for early education.



All teachers of young children must be prepared for children with DECAL:

Different     Experiences     Cultures     Abilities     Languages

To prepare teachers for success with all kinds of children, teacher preparation programs need to be more collaborative. Addressing diversity can no longer be about a few buzzwords when we actually still consider diverse people as “others”. There are no non-diverse classrooms! Diversity is about the uniqueness of each and every young child – not about the many vs. the few, or the normal vs. the…..

When we talk about inclusion of children with disabilities, we have to remember there are some children in early childhood education who have disabilities that have not yet been identified, and there are others who have been diagnosed incorrectly. Inclusion is not about doing a favor to some little kids with disabilities, and “letting’ them spend time with their typically developing peers. It’s about realizing that all children need to be together, learning together, and playing together right from the start. And teachers need to be prepared.

Early childhood classrooms of the future need to be ready for DECAL:

Different     Experiences     Cultures     Abilities     Languages

When we talk about the compelling research showing the benefits of becoming bilingual, we have to stop acting like that is only about children of immigrant families. If we continue to say that growing up bilingual is good, then we have to support that it is good for all children, not just the “others” who started out without English as their families language. The more we improve language supports for all children in early childhood, the more we will see achievement gaps fade and outcomes grow. To make that happen, we have to be sure all schools and teachers are prepared to be effective for DECAL:

Different     Experiences     Cultures     Abilities     Languages


We’ve talked enough about STEM to make a difference across the field. Now we need to head for the future and put this new term in the vocabulary of every educator, administrator, policymaker, family member, and child. DECAL reminds us that we must educate each child as an individual. Let’s prepare every early childhood educator to be successful with children from Different Experiences, Cultures, Abilities and Languages!

UPDATE: The U.S. Department of Education just posted their new Policy Statement for Including Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs on September 14, 2015. The report recommends that policies and practices should be coordinated and culturally and linguistically responsive across all sectors. We agree!


  • William H. Strader says:

    When these important articles are up and on LinkedIn…I would like to continue to support them by posting and providing the link(s)…on the two Facebook Pages I administer:

    Student Interest Forum of NAEYC
    Future Leaders in Early Childhood Education: College & University Students
    (this is a specialized request/confirmation FB Page Group)

    Presently my outreach has expanded to over 2000 followers.

    All the Best!

    William H. Strader, Ed.D., Professor, Early Childhood Education,
    Facilitator, Student Interest Forum of NAEYC
    Coordinator, New England Symposium on Play

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