South Carolina Partnerships for Inclusion is a preschool inclusion initiative made possible by partnership through the South Carolina Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Services and the University of South Carolina’s Yvonne and Schuyler Moore Child Development Research Center. This work took root in 2016 as the SC Preschool Inclusion Initiative, a project under the SC Gateways: Cradle to Career grant, to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to increase inclusive opportunities and improve school readiness outcomes for preschool children with disabilities in selected school districts in South Carolina. Through that work, we developed a support framework, created tools for planning and measurement, and facilitated the organization of eight district-level cross sector leadership teams.
The SC Department of Education, Office of Special Education Services has committed to supporting the continuation of this work. Districts participating in this initiative receive technical assistance to develop cross-sector leadership teams and create and execute an implementation plan to ensure that preschool children have access to and are able to meaningfully participate in the general education curriculum alongside children without disabilities.
According to the Policy statement on inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood programs (DHHS/ED, 2015), a joint policy statement of the Department of Health and Human Services & the Department of Education, inclusion in early childhood programs can set a trajectory for inclusion across the life course. Additional research suggests that high-quality inclusive preschool programs within communities that work together to make the long-term commitment to support and make inclusive opportunities available for young children with disabilities will likely increase positive outcomes for all children and families (Cross, Traub, Hunter-Pishgahi, & Shelton, 2004; Diamond & Huang, 2005; Odom, Buysse, & Soukakou, 2011). South Carolina Partnerships for Inclusion strongly believes that the most successful outcomes come from working together, across sectors, experience, and perspectives, including a variety of stakeholders in this conversation and collaboration.