Early Childhood Inclusion: The Hidden Curriculum of Peer Relationships

ABSTRACT Discrepancies have been known to occur between parents and teachers' reports of inclusion and children's actual experiences of inclusion. This qualitative study of 3 children with Down Syndrome (DS) and their peers, aged 3 years, in 3 different early childhood settings indicated that facilitative inclusion, the kind of inclusion that is supportive of learning and development, was not experienced by any of the children with DS. Results showed that the quality of inclusion was affected by the manner in which the explicit curriculum was implemented and by the effects of the unintended or hidden curriculum, which is the focus of this paper. Teachers and parents interviewed reported minimal awareness of how the hidden curriculum the children experienced impacted on their learning. This study describes some of the hidden barriers faced when children with and without DS interact and concludes by illustrating how early childhood educators might facilitate children's cognitive and social processes using incidents from the data and drawing upon recent disability and learning theories to inform such facilitation.

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