First Advisor

Sileo, Nancy M.

First Committee Member

Zaghlawan, Hasan

Second Committee Member

Graefe, Amy

Third Committee Member

Hess, Robyn S.

Document Type


Date Created



The inclusion of Kansas preschoolers with developmental delays in general early childhood environments has shown little growth over the past seven years. An initial examination of public data for federal fiscal years 2018, 2019, and 2020 showed inclusion rates in preschools in Kansas public school districts differed by special education administrative configuration (SEAC). Kansas uses three different types of SEACs (i.e., single district, special education cooperative, and interlocal). The special education cooperative (also known as cooperative) and interlocal SEACs had the lowest rates of inclusion in preschools and highest proportion of rural school districts. Despite the lower rates of inclusion in preschools in rural cooperative and interlocal districts, some districts exceeded the average preschool inclusion rate in Kansas. The purpose of this study was to identify the components leading to high rates of preschool inclusion, including how developmentally appropriate practices were implemented in inclusive preschool programs in Kansas. Using an instrumental case study design, an in-depth examination was completed to identify what components were consistent with high rates of preschool inclusion, including what developmentally appropriate practices (DAP) were utilized in inclusive preschool programs in one rural cooperative district and one rural interlocal district. Data were collected over a period of several months from multiple sources and analyzed using a thematic approach and content analysis. The findings revealed several components consistent with high rates of preschool inclusion in the participant cases along with evidence of DAP. In the cooperative district, (a) program quality, (b) staffing, and (c) relationships were associated with high rates of inclusion. The cooperative district provided high-quality programming using a reverse mainstream early childhood special education (ECSE) classroom model that served children with and without disabilities. Developmentally appropriate practices were evident including (a) use of a whole child approach to programming (b) use of intentional play, (c) focus on developing relationships, and (d) cultivating children’s sense of agency and purpose. The rural district served by the interlocal SEAC used a co-teaching model to serve children with and without developmental delays. Components associated with high rates of inclusion in the interlocal district included (a) program quality, (b) staffing, (c) family-friendly practices, and (d) community support. The preschool and ECSE teachers used high quality curricula, individualized classroom routines, intentional use of play, and a focus on social emotional skills to support children in their classroom. A positive attitude about the inclusive preschool was evident by their full classrooms each year. Developmentally appropriate practices including (a) authentic relationships, (b) flexible teaching, and (c) engaging curricula were present in the interlocal preschool. As evidenced by this case study, districts used different program models to provide inclusive special education services to preschoolers with disabilities. Both models included DAP and maintained high rates of inclusion. While the study focused on identifying components supporting inclusion, barriers and challenges faced by the districts were reported. Preschool funding was a challenge for both case participants. It is recommended that special education directors and early childhood decision makers have a clear understanding of how preschool and special education funding interact as well as how the Office of Special Education Programs measures inclusive preschool environments. Districts should use these findings to review their own programs and think creatively about providing inclusive services. Future research should focus on the impact of special education administrative configurations, barriers to inclusive preschool in districts with low rates of inclusion, and whether use of DAP contributes more strongly to inclusive practices.

Abstract Format



288 pages

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Copyright is held by the author.