If Your Child has Special Needs

The  Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees children with disabilities the opportunity to participate in all activities of community life, including attending child care. But just because child care programs are available to your child doesn't mean that all child care settings will work for you.

You need to look for a setting that suits your child's individual needs, and a provider with whom you are comfortable. Contact us to get a list of providers that have experience caring for children with various disabilities. You can also talk with your Early Intervention provider and other parents to see whom they have used.

If your child has significant medical needs, you should look closely at the setting. Is there a good adult-to-child ratio? Will there always be an adult available to care for your child? Will they take the time necessary to work with your child? If your child has sensory issues, make sure the environment isn't overly stimulating for him. Some children may need a smaller group to thrive, while others will do best with lots of peer interaction. You have to decide which environment will optimize your child's potential and participation.

You need to consider other factors as well, including the provider's communication system. Will you get the kind of in-depth information you're looking for every day? Check into the discipline policy and make sure the center is willing to work within a special behavioral plan, if your child needs one. Ask about the center's rate of staff turnover. If your child requires a consistent routine or has trouble with transitions, you need a center with a stable staff.

If there is a child with special needs in the class, go to the center to observe how the child is included in activities. Bring your child in and see how she is accepted by the other children and the staff. The most important thing is to find a teacher who is willing to learn about your child's needs and is open to making adaptations, if necessary.