How Oregon Prioritizes Early Childhood Inclusion

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About the Guest(s): Meredith Villines has 20+ years of working in early care and education and is currently at the Oregon Department of Education in the Office of Enhancing Student Opportunities. Meredith’s primary roles have been a classroom teacher in inclusive childcare and preschools, lead teacher in an Early Childhood Special Education classroom, Itinerant Special Early Childhood Education Teacher and Home Visitor, behavior specialist, trainer, and part-time faculty at Portland Community College.

For the past 16 years, Autumn Belloni has focused intensively on working with children from birth to age five and their families and collaborating with staff and community providers who serve this population. Autumn serves as the Director of the Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education Program for the Linn, Benton, Lincoln Education Service District. In this role, she oversees and guides various aspects of special education and inclusive practices, leveraging her background as a speech/language pathologist and lead teacher in Early Childhood Special Education settings.

Episode Summary: Meredith Villines and Autumn Belloni uncover the strides Oregon has taken toward setting a standard for inclusivity in early education, highlighting the shared belief in the importance of inclusive education right from the onset of a child’s educational journey. Autumn and Meredith delve into Oregon’s program structure, explaining how nine regions collaborate to provide seamless services for children birth through five and the supportive role of the Oregon Department of Education in fostering these initiatives. They also share valuable revelations on the impact of inclusive settings on children’s learning and development, emphasizing the resultant gain in language skills, peer relationships, and teacher growth when children with disabilities are included in general education classrooms.


Key Takeaways:

  • Early childhood inclusion in Oregon is experiencing a dynamic shift, pushing the boundaries of traditional special education practices to foster a more inclusive environment for all young learners.
  • Both speakers stress that inclusive education benefits not just the children experiencing disabilities, but also their typically developing peers, families, and the broader community.
  • The Oregon Department of Education has been pivotal in providing direction and support for inclusion initiatives, further enhancing the efficacy of programs at the community level.
  • The partnership between Oregon and the Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center to implement inclusive practices is a notable example of how collaborative efforts can result in significant progress.
  • Personal stories and experiences shared by the guests underscore the real-life impact of inclusion policies on children and their families, cementing the argument for inclusive education.


Oregon Early Childhood Inclusion:

Policy Statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs:


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