Occasional Paper Series #42

Including Autism: Confronting Inequitable Practices in a Toddler Classroom

by Emmanuelle N. Fincham and Amanda R. Fellner

Over the last couple of decades, it seems that toddler-aged children are being identified on the autism spectrum at increasing rates. The growing accessibility of early screening and diagnostic evaluations allow for the autism diagnosis to extend to younger children (Schertz, Baker, Hurwitz, & Benner, 2011). This increase in identification at a younger age, combined with the belief that substantial gains will be made if treatment is offered at earlier ages, leads to an increased emphasis on providing early intervention (EI) services to children with autism (Stahmer & Aarona, 2009). As EI traditionally serves very young children and their families, we need to know more about how toddlers identified as autistic are experiencing interventions within the context of early childhood settings outside the home. There is little literature about what happens when the positivist, behaviorist paradigm of autism “treatment” meets up with the more fluid, child-centered, play-based setting of the early childhood classroom. This lack of literature might relate to an actual lack of inclusive settings that support autistic learners.

Read the Full Essay

About the Authors

Amanda R. Fellner is an infant-toddler teacher at the Rita Gold Early Childhood Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is also a doctoral student and her work examines young children’s use of space and risk-taking practices, re-examining common understandings of what children can/should be allowed to do, as well as investigating teachers’ practice related to children’s risk-taking.

Emmanuelle FinchmanEmmanuelle N. Fincham is a toddler teacher and researcher at the Rita Gold Early Childhood Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. Currently working on her dissertation, Emmanuelle is interested in the possibilities that arise when locating and disrupting the expected and “best” practices in early childhood teaching, research, and teacher education.