Richard M. Barron
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Choosing Care for a Child with Special Need

Mrs. Jones of Sanger, Texas, has a son with ADHD, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) and anxiety. She placed her son in child care when he was still a baby. Her experience, for the most part, has been positive. She feels that the experience was a good one for her child——and that child care centers can provide parents a place where they know their child is being taken care of, while at the same time getting companionship.

“I really find that children in day care are better socialized and adjust better. I can’t imagine what it would have been like for us if we wouldn’t have put him in care,” says Jones. “Parents need a break sometimes. Some days I would put him in daycare so I could have a day at home.”

Choosing child care for any child can be an arduous and stressful task, but for parents of a special needs child, it can also be a very confusing and emotional experience. Here are some tools that can help.

ADA 101: Parents’ Basic Rights

There are many things that have to be considered when placing a special needs child with a child care provider, such as the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) child care laws, what questions to ask and what to look for when visiting a potential center or care giver.

With the exception of child care centers run by religious entities, all child care providers, including small home based providers, must comply with Title III of the ADA laws. According to the Department of Justice Website, the basic requirements of Title III are as follows:

  • Centers cannot exclude children with disabilities from their programs unless their presence would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others or require a fundamental alteration of the program.
  • Centers have to make reasonable modifications to their policies and practices to integrate children, parents, and guardians with disabilities into their programs, unless doing so would constitute a fundamental alteration.
  • Centers must provide appropriate auxiliary aides and services need for effective communication with children or adults with disabilities, when doing so would not constitute an undue burden.
  • Centers must generally make their facilities accessible to persons with disabilities. Existing facilities are subject to the readily achievable standard for barrier removal, while newly constructed facilities and any altered portions of existing facilities must be fully accessible.

Tips on Choosing Care

Once a parent is ensured that the care giver they are considering is in compliance with the ADA laws, they should visit the facility at an unannounced time to observe the activities of the center and the quality of care the children are receiving. This is one of the most important steps of choosing a child care center or provider. If they won’’t allow you into the center or home if you show up unannounced, be aware. It probably means they are not providing quality care.

Once a parent feels comfortable that a center or provider is providing adequate care, they should set up an appointment to speak with the child care administrator or provider to ask important questions about the quality and type of care their child will receive. They should also use the time in the center or home to further observe the activities and the center itself.

Parents should pay special attention to how the center is organized. Look around and see if the center is child friendly, for example, if toys and supplies are within reach of a child to make it easier for the child to help him/herself. Look at the pathways in the center to make sure they are clear of obstructions and easy for the child to maneuver through and also observe if the restrooms are readily accessible and child friendly. You should also pay attention to the ratio of care givers to children. Are there enough care givers that your child will be taken care of and receive the attention that he or she needs.

One indication of whether or not a child care facility is child oriented and not just geared towards parents is the location of the children’s’ artwork. There are times when a center wants to showcase artwork for parents, but the artwork of the children also needs to be on their eyelevel so they can see and take pride in their accomplishments.

While talking to care giver, parents need to be sure to ask specific questions, such as the experience the care giver has in dealing with special needs children, what kind of schedules and routines the care giver has in case accommodations need to be made for the child, what kind of experience and training (if any) are provided to other care givers that may be taking care of your child, and what they can do to accommodate the special needs of a child.

Parents should also be sure to provide care givers with all the pertinent information they’ll need to know to assure the best quality of care. Parents need to be honest about their child’s disabilities and needs and discuss any concerns the provider may have. This is an important step in assuring open and honest communication between the parent and care giver. There should be a partnership between both parties to insure the success of the child while in the center or home.

With the right support, placing a child with special needs in a day care center or with a home based care provider can be very successful. The most important thing is to find a provider that is both licensed and monitored. Once the emotional hurdle is overcome and the stress of finding the right center is lifted, it can be beneficial to both the parent and the child.

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