Inclusion Training: Why Is It Critical?

Training in disability inclusion and behavior support is essential for all professionals directly working with children of all abilities. Learn how developing inclusive programs significantly impacts the support you can provide to children and their families, and how taking part in inclusion training is the first step towards creating a meaningfully inclusive environment for children and youth with disabilities.

Even with the rising prevalence of movements to create inclusive learning and play environments for all children, a 2020 report by Humanity & Inclusion notes that the number of children and youth excluded from education and access to quality learning experiences remains problematic. With the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating exclusion, there are fears that the widespread loss of learning during the pandemic may be impossible to recover.

UNICEF estimates that globally there are 240 million children with disabilities. All children have aspirations and need quality education to reach their potential. Unfortunately, policymakers often fail to consider children with disabilities, making it difficult for them to gain access to education and subsequently engage in social, economic, and political life. Throughout history, children with disabilities have been kept out of school or excluded from participating in activities alongside their peers due to discrimination, stigma, and a lack of disability awareness. KIT is here to  provide disability inclusion and behavior support training to all professionals working with children.

Now, more than ever, it is crucial for us to renew our commitment to inclusion and to amplify the growing need to provide all professionals working with children access to quality disability inclusion training in order for them to feel more confident in their abilities to engage all participants in their programs, including families and care providers.

This blog explores key insights and benefits of inclusion training for professionals, plus dives into how you can take the first step to inclusion in your programs with globally-recognized disability inclusion and behavior support training and inclusion resources from KIT.


A group of five diverse, young staff members in a group smiling for the camera.


Why Inclusion Matters: Benefits for Programs, Children & Families

Disability inclusion should be a top priority for leaders of childcare and recreation programs.

According to the most recent data from the United States Census Bureau, over three million children (4.3% of the under-18 population) in the United States had a disability in 2019, up 0.4 percentage points since 2008. Community programs are often the first place that children with disabilities begin to develop independence, social skills, and relationships with those outside their families.

Research has shown that inclusive play settings build confidence, self-esteem, and social skills in children with and without disabilities. 

In addition to supporting a child’s development, inclusive child care has been shown to benefit the quality of staff-child interactions and professional satisfaction, ultimately leading to higher retention rates for staff.

Let’s take a look at the ways in which quality training benefits staff and how providing these opportunities should be one of your leadership team’s primary objectives.


Benefits of Inclusion Training for Program Staff

A 2021 article in the Seattle Times noted that staff who were able to provide inclusive learning settings for their students helped to reduce preschool expulsions. The same article further states that preschool expulsion has been linked to poor academic performance, dropout, and even incarceration; it also can cause parents to drop out of the workforce entirely.

In order for leaders to successfully implement inclusive practices that foster child development, staff need disability inclusion training that supports their efforts. 

It goes beyond training around behavior support or skill acquisition. Training on inclusive practices teaches adults how to create environments where all children feel safe and can thrive, and how to work with each other in a way that helps everyone achieve more positive outcomes:

  1. Increased staff confidence and attitudes in working with diverse children and youth
  2. Increased adult understanding of their own biases and development of strategies to address them
  3. Improved communication between adults and children 
  4. Improved ability of adults to spot exclusionary behaviors while they’re happening, and to enact preventive actions based on evidence rather than biases
  5. Increased ability of adults to identify and address potential bias in organizational policies and procedures
  6. Greater understanding of the skills and tools needed to create an inclusive and equitable workplace
  7. Improved staff morale and team cohesion due to a shared understanding of the importance of inclusion
  8. Enhanced organizational culture and reputation through increased diversity and inclusion initiatives


Kids Included Together: Our Findings on How Disability Inclusion Training 

Increases Staff Confidence & Improves Programs

In an exploratory study conducted by KIT, 612 childcare and youth staff were surveyed to measure their beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions about serving children with and without disabilities. Findings showed that staff who received training on inclusion were more likely to feel comfortable providing accommodations in their program and were more likely to modify program activities to accommodate all children in their program.

Discover how KIT can put inclusive practices into action for your programs today!

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Benefits of Inclusion for Children and Families

For many families, inclusive programs are critical for their children’s well-being and happiness. Research confirms that early childhood programs that implement inclusive practices can create a sense of belonging and community. This in turn can result in increased self-esteem, greater empathy towards peers, and an overall positive experience. 

Inclusive programs improve parents’ perception of the program, and strengthen communities by:

  1. Making it easier for children and families to access resources, such as medical care, social services, and educational opportunities.
  2. Providing a space that helps children develop stronger social skills, have better communication and understanding of others, and increase self-confidence.
  3. Exposing children to a wider range of learning opportunities and experiences, and providing them with more well-rounded educational experiences.
  4. Creating an opportunity where children can work with others to solve problems and develop creative thinking skills.
  5. Increasing physical activity opportunities which allows children to develop greater physical fitness and strength.
  6. Creating a sense of belonging and community, which can result in increased self-esteem and acceptance.
  7. Helping families gain the opportunity to interact with other families who share similar experiences as well as other professionals who work with children with disabilities in their daily lives outside of school or daycare settings.


Multiple children sitting around a cafeteria table having lunch.


Challenges of Disability Inclusion Training

While the benefits of disability inclusion training are evident, when it comes to the barriers to achieving inclusive environments, more work needs to be done. Here we identify common barriers to participation that disability inclusion training by KIT can overcome: 


False Assumptions & Perceptions of Disability

While society’s understanding of disabilities has improved over time, a lack of understanding and awareness of disabilities still present an obstacle in creating a supportive and inclusive environment for children with disabilities. 

These barriers include stereotyping, stigma, prejudice, and discrimination whenever assumptions are made about a person based on their disability. 

By thinking of disability as what occurs when a person’s needs are not being met in their physical and social environment, it becomes easier to understand that disability is not a personal deficit or shortcoming. 

Research suggests that by providing training on disability inclusion, programs can foster more positive attitudes towards including kids with disabilities. In this way, all children will learn how to respect the differences of each individual rather than assuming that persons with disabilities are “different” from themselves or others in their community.


How KIT can help

Enroll in our I Can Be Inclusive Series

From the basics of disability inclusion to learning how to create supportive environments, our I Can Be Inclusive Series is a wonderful way to start your staff’s inclusion training.

Our courses offer information in a user-friendly style with personable videos. We also provide handouts so that you can take away a resource as soon as you purchase and enroll in the course. 

You can take the full series and get 20% off, or you can enroll in any of the five individual courses in the series:


Physical Barriers and Accessibility

Physical access is a major hurdle for children with disabilities. The CDC describes physical barriers as, “structural obstacles in natural or manmade environments that prevent or block mobility (moving around in the environment) or access.” A common example would be a set of stairs without a ramp or an elevator, which may prevent those with certain disabilities from accessing a building or other area.

Physical barriers can also refer to the limited availability of inclusive sports-based programming for children and youth with disabilities where they are often excluded from these opportunities because of assumptions about athletic skills and abilities. 

However, organizations that were traditionally segregated have moved toward more inclusive programming in recent years, providing inclusive recreational classes and accessible programs that provide more opportunities for all children to exercise and play with their peers.

Inclusive sports-based programs can be an important part of a child’s overall development and health, as they help to improve coordination, build confidence, and foster friendships in other children who may share similar interests. When children with disabilities are able to participate in these types of activities, they benefit on multiple levels – socially and physically.


How KIT can help

Talk to us about our Inclusion Coaching & Consulting.

Are your program materials modified to ensure the inclusion of all participants? Would you like more information on how you can start adapting inclusive activities inside classrooms and program environments? Get in touch with us and our experts can provide you with the information to get you started.


Social Barriers

Social barriers create limitations for people with disabilities, who may face discrimination or prejudice that limit their opportunities. 

These recent statistics paint a  more clear picture of social barriers faced by children with disabilities:

  • Children with disabilities are almost four times more likely to experience violence than children without disabilities. (CDC)
  • Children with disabilities are around seven times more likely than their peers to be excluded. (Institute for Public Policy Research, UK)
  • Children with disabilities are more likely to be exposed to certain child protection violations. (UNICEF Fact Sheet: Children with Disabilities)
  • Children with disabilities are 25% less likely to attend early childhood education, 49% more likely to have never attended school, 47% more likely to be out of primary school, 33% more likely to be out of lower secondary school, and 27% more likely to be out of upper secondary school. (UNICEF Fact Sheet: Children with Disabilities)
  • Children with disabilities are at a higher risk for certain health problems, including communicable diseases and illnesses that can be life-threatening. (UNICEF Fact Sheet: Children with Disabilities)


How KIT can help

Explore our free Inclusion Resources.

From tip sheets, downloadables, checklists, and more, KIT has developed a library of best-in-class inclusion resources to help you ensure all children are included, regardless of ability.


Policy Barriers

A policy barrier is an official or unofficial practice, condition, or policy that excludes or limits people with disabilities from the benefits of a program or activity provided by a public entity (an organization providing services to the public on behalf of the government or another public entity). Policy barriers can be intentional or unintentional and include formal rules and policies as well as informal practices. Policies might also be related to laws and regulations that govern how programs and activities are run.


How KIT can help

Ask us about our Policies & Standards services.

We provide policy analysis and technical assistance, and help schools, programs, and child and youth leaders create, implement, and evaluate policies that support inclusion.

To affect inclusive practices on a global level, Kids included Together is a special consultative organization to the United Nations Economic and Social Council.


Importance of Inclusive Organizations & the Role of Leadership Teams

Inclusive organizations provide a direct impact on one of the most important beneficiaries of inclusion: families. 

Without access to inclusive learning and play environments, families of children with disabilities may face additional difficulties:

  • Cost can be a major barrier, as necessary accommodations and specialized supports can be expensive and unaffordable for many families. 
  • Time constraints, such as the need to take time off from work to care for their child, can be difficult to manage. 
  • Lack of resources or experienced professionals in the area can prevent families from accessing the appropriate services.

Inclusive organizations are better prepared to serve families who face barriers to their children’s participation. Whether it’s a lack of access to reliable child care or a diagnosis of a developmental disability that requires special attention and accommodations, inclusive organizations have a plan for including all kids, and parents can feel at ease knowing that their organization has practices in place to make sure their children will be safe and included.

Aside from the legal responsibilities outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990), program leadership teams (youth program directors, administrators, and managers) also have a responsibility to ensure that all employees (leadership, staff, teachers, aides, and volunteers) are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to uphold this standard.

Contact KIT and our experienced staff will work with you to create a program that meets your specific needs!