At C&K Indooroopilly Community Kindergarten, the practice of inclusion means many things. Chief among them is the idea that inclusion means giving all children a sense of agency.
Director Amanda Hayes says agency is about children becoming active citizens and having the ability to influence their world.
‘This is at the core of our philosophy,’ Amanda said. ‘We help all of our children see they can have an effect on their world and that sense of belonging to the group. That is what inclusion is all about.’
Part of the process of inclusion is giving children permission to talk about difference and get answers to their questions in a language they understand.
‘We are lucky to have a multicultural kindergarten—more than 70 per cent of our children have English as their second language,’ Amanda said.
‘There’s always lots of talk about how “your skin is a different colour to mine” and that sort of thing. ‘And that comfort with observing difference extends into noticing different ability levels as well.
‘We talk about difference in a positive way. It’s an acceptance that everybody has different skills, they’re good at different things and they like different things. Children seem to really understand it from that angle.’
Amanda said the service also took a trans-disciplinary approach to inclusion, working with developmental experts in early childhood development programs (ECDPs), Hear for Kids and Autism Queensland.
‘Once our little friends head off to their programs, we begin to notice a real difference in their language, how they are able to ask for things and even how their self-regulation is coming along.
‘We see them start to translate their new-found skills into the kindergarten environment.’
Amanda said children with developmental delay benefited immensely from kindergarten.
‘We had one little guy who was almost non-verbal when he joined us but after 6 months we noticed a massive increase in his language.’
Amanda said that by the end of his time at kindy his confidence really began to rocket.
‘He knew the routine, he knew what he was supposed to be doing, and he could almost show the others what to do. You could tell that he was very cocky towards the end. He was like ‘This is my place. I’m in charge’. It was very sweet.
‘It sort of brought home to me how much dedication is involved in giving all children the best chance in life. The best beginning. It’s great seeing someone’s life change so fundamentally and knowing you’ve had a hand in that.'