Online Companion: Beginning Essentials in Early Childhood Education

Chapter 3: Defining the Young Child

Chapter Review Questions

  1. How does the concept of the whole child support the concept of the uniqueness of each child?
  2. Describe how teachers take into account differences and similarities when they plan programs for young children.
  3. Why is it important to include cultural identity milestones in the Word Pictures in this chapter?
  4. Why is PL-457 important?
  5. What is NAEYC's position on inclusion?



Chapter Learning Objectives

  1. To help students apply developmental theory to understand the growth and behavior of the children they teach.
    • Developmental theory tells us that each child is different. How do you see this expressed in an early childhood classroom? What do you think are the reasons for these individual differences? How do they affect the teacher's role and attitude?
    • Developmental theory tells us that children are alike. What characteristics do you see in young children that support this theory? How does this affect program planning for a group?
  2. To help students see the relationship between children with special needs and their own capabilities.
    • How do you think children with special needs are similar to children who do not have a disability?
    • Select several manipulative toys from the preschool. Create a plan that would show how these materials would be adapted for a gifted preschooler and a kindergartner with delayed cognitive abilities.
  3. To help students see that young children's development is affected by racial, cultural, gender, and ability bias.
    • Describe ways you would communicate with a child where there is a difference between the home and school in regard to spoken language and the way it is used. How would you turn different communication backgrounds into advantages, rather than disadvantages?
    • The common ground with all families is the well-being of their children. How do you support child-rearing practices if they differ from the way you were raised?
    • Begin a collection of posters, materials, books, magazines, and other resources that show interracial families.



Topic: Promoting School Readiness for Vulnerable Children

Go to the National Black Child Development Institute's Web site at and explore what their site has to offer. Find "Defining the Cross Cultural Partnership Project" and the "Current Focus" icon on the Cross Cultural Partnership Project page. After reading about the current and future goals of this project:

  • Research a school that has benefited from task force efforts of the Cross Cultural Partnership Project.
  • Develop your own strategy for promoting school readiness and quality early care and education for vulnerable children, and discuss how you might implement it.

Reflect on These Questions:

  1. How does the mission of this organization foster a greater understanding of the whole child?
  2. How do the resources promote cultural sensitivity?
  3. Do you think every minority culture should have its own advocacy organization like this one? Defend your answer.



Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

CHADD is a national non-profit organization that serves individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This Web site provides information and support through fact sheets, articles and resources, and local support and services. The National Resource Center library is available through this site and offers books and articles for professionals, parents, and educators to learn more about ADHD.

American Academy of Pediatrics

The American Academy of Pediatrics Web site is dedicated to the attainment of optimal physical, mental, and social health and well-being for all infants and children. Professional and educational resources are available on-line in such topics as ADHD, developmental stages, obesity, media, and discipline, to name a few.

Council for Exceptional Children

The Council for Exceptional Children and its Division of Early Childhood offers a voice and vision for special education. Products, publications, news updates, professional standards, and accreditation are available through this site. Samples of their journals, Exceptional Children and Teaching Exceptional Children, also can be found at the site. Discussion forums on topics such as autism, discipline, and inclusion are available.

The Arc (formerly National Association of Retarded Citizens)

The Arc is a national organization of and for people with mental retardation and related developmental disabilities and their families. The Web site has a number of position statements related to critical issues for children and adults with mental retardation, including inclusion, human and civil rights, quality of life, advocacy, early intervention, and family support position statements.

Circle of Inclusion

The Circle of Inclusion Web site is for early childhood service providers and families of young children. It offers demonstrations of and information about the effective practice of inclusive educational programs for children from birth through age 8. Methods and practices are available, as are statements on accommodation, accessibility, and awareness. Many materials can be downloaded for use.


Answers to Chapter Review Questions

  1. The concept of the whole child is based on the principles that all areas of human growth are interrelated. Physical, social/emotional, intellectual, and language development are intertwined and mutually supportive. Each child is the sum of all of those areas of growth and, as such, is unique and different from anyone else.
  2. Teachers take differences and similarities into account by first planning individual and group activities according to the age level of the children in the class. Planning begins around the known similarities of an age level and the developmental tasks and age-appropriate behaviors common to that group of children, including those with special needs. Teachers then observe children and change the goals and activities in accordance with individual children's needs and progress. Activities allow for a variety of responses and uses from children at different stages of development. Planning for variations in stages of development is one way teachers can foster the uniqueness of each child.
  3. The cultural milestones make the connection between developmental stages and the awareness of one's culture. They can enhance a child's sensitivity and attitude toward differences.
  4. PL-457, the Education and Handicapped Amendments Act of 1986, has had a profound impact on early childhood educators. Sections of this law provide funding for children who were not included in the previous law, particularly infants, toddlers, and three- to five-year-olds. Parents of children with special needs became part of the process through the child's Individualized Education Plan, and their role has been strengthened in other areas. This law also allows for the inclusion of youngsters who are "developmentally delayed" and "at risk" children. The vague definition leaves more of the determination for services up to local agencies.
  5. Written by the Division of Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children, NAEYC adopted this policy in 1993 that supports the rights of all children, regardless of their abilities, to participate actively in a "natural setting" within their community. They define such a setting as one in which the child would have spent time had he or she not had a disability. They further support the right of the child to access health and social services and educational services for young children and their families. The policy continues to support the rights of families to have these services based on their own preferences and needs.