High quality STEM experiences are an ideal context for supporting the development of young children with special needs. The STEM experiences developed by the Iowa Regents’ Center for Early Developmental Education (IRCEDE) are both developmentally appropriate and individually appropriate. STEM for all begins by increasing expectations that students with disabilities have access to STEM learning through universal design for learning or UDL (Basham, Israel & Maynard, 2010). UDL is a process to intentionally design learning experiences from the beginning to address individual differences (Center for Applied Special Technology [CAST], 2011). Dr. Mary Donegan-Ritter, Associate Professor in Early Childhood at the University of Northern Iowa, has been a classroom teacher of children with special needs. She has written extensively on how the IRCEDE early STEM experiences are the perfect context for universal design STEM education for children birth to age 8. She enhances the IRCEDE work in early STEM by pointing out the value of high quality early STEM in the development of children with special needs, and shaping our professional learning to assist teachers in designing inclusive instruction. By pre-thinking experiences and the abilities and needs of all possible learners, they can then provide multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement (CAST, 2011). She is joined by Program Coordinator Sherri Peterson, MS, MA, and Dr. Rosemary Geiken, advisor, who also have experiences as educators in early childhood special education classrooms. Below are references of a few examples of Dr. Donegan-Ritter’s journal articles and book chapter describing her work on inclusive early STEM with the IRCEDE STEM experiences.
Donegan-Ritter, M. (2015). STEM for ALL children: Preschool teachers supporting engagement of children with special needs in physical science learning centers. Young Exceptional Children, 20(1), 3-15.
Donegan-Ritter, M., & Fitzgerald, L. M. (2017). Inquiry in inclusive preschools with tomorrow’s teachers. Science and Children, 55(2), 76-80.
Donegan-Ritter, M. M., & Zan, B. (2017). Designing and implementing inclusive STEM activities for early childhood. In C. M. Curran & A. J. Petersen (Eds.), Handbook of research on classroom diversity and inclusive education practice (pp. 222-249). IGI Global.
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