Haring Center

May 29, 2019

The ‘Building Blocks’ of Inclusion

Popular text by University of Washington authors gets timely update

“What does it mean to provide specially designed instruction in an inclusive early childhood setting? What are evidence-based practices and how do they apply to young children with and without disabilities?” These are questions that Haring Center researchers and graduate students were asking in 2002 when the first edition of Building Blocks for Teaching Young Children with Special Needs was published.

Authored by Haring Center faculty Dr. Ilene Schwartz and Dr. Susan Sandall, the first and second editions of Building Blocks text became best-selling guides for early childhood educators who wanted to include every child in a meaningful way in their classrooms.

The original Building Blocks framework grew out of the work of the Early Childhood Research Institute on Inclusion (ECRII), a group of professionals from universities across the country who endeavored to identify both barriers to and supports of early childhood inclusion. This group worked together for more than 5 years to create a framework that could guide the work of teachers in a variety of early learning settings who wanted to help children with disabilities succeed in these classrooms. As Ilene Schwartz said “The purpose of the Building Blocks frameworks was to give teachers across all types of early learning environments (e.g., child care, preschool classrooms) effective strategies that would work for them in their classrooms, with their staff, and with their students.”

Through its first two editions, teacher trainees and practicing teachers alike have found Building Blocks to be a user-friendly guide that presents practical, evidence-based ideas to use across four key components: foundational practice, curriculum modifications, embedded learning opportunities, and child-focused instructional strategies.

Changes in the early learning landscape since the first two editions were published prompted the updates and additions to the third edition of Building Blocks. UW researchers Dr. Gail Joseph and Dr. Ariane Gauvreau joined Sandall and Schwartz as authors of the new edition, and have provided critical guidance for educators on a number of topics. In addition to expansions of the four key Building Blocks components, new topics include how to integrate literacy and STEAM content into daily activities, how to support the executive function skills of all young learners, how to integrate Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles to engage all young children, and how to conduct quality classroom assessment to guide instruction.

The new edition of Building Blocks includes not only the traditional assessment, meeting, and planning forms included in previous editions, but also includes access to seven comprehensive training modules for staff development. The training modules are designed to reinforce key concepts in the book and each module includes a slide deck, presentation notes, learning activities, and lists of other resources and references.

According to Brookes Publishing Co., the third edition of Building Blocks has been highly anticipated. Since announcing the impending release of the new edition, Brookes received a huge number of pre-orders of the text and worked with 45 different universities who wished to adopt the Building Blocks text for their Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 teacher training courses.

Order the third edition of Building Blocks for Teaching Young Children with Special Needs. For training on the Building Blocks model in your school or center, contact Alison Winfield.