Day Care for Special Needs Children
Locating the right child care is always an emotional process for any parent, but for parents of special needs children, it can be even more complex. Deciding upon the right day care for children with special needs requires additional research, parental involvement, and attention. It is important to keep in mind that not all day care centers are capable of providing the level of care and service your child may need.
Many of the factors to consider when searching for a day care for special needs children are the same factors you need to look for when searching for any day care center. For instance, when looking for a day care center, always carefully consider qualifications. Find out whether the center is fully licensed, and ask to see the center’s certificate of licensure. You can also typically obtain information about the center by checking with your state’s daycare licensing board. How long has the facility been in business? What is the size of their staff? Do they have an adequate staff to child ratio? What type of training does the staff have? Are they fully trained in CPR and first-aid? Do they have education and training in early childhood development? Does the staff have experience in working with special needs children?
When searching for a day care center for your special needs child it is also important to make certain you are fully cognizant of your rights. Under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, day care providers are not allowed to exclude children because of disability. Furthermore, they are required to make reasonable changes to practices, policies and physically accessibility to ensure individuals with special needs can be integrated into the center. Keep in mind; however, that day care centers which are operated by religious entities, such as synagogues, mosques, and churches are not required to adhere to Title III.
Always make a point of meeting with the center operator first. Most day care centers today will provide parents with an information packet upon their initial visit. Ask to meet with the manager or director of the center and be prepared to ask questions. For instance, find out whether the center is equipped to handle your child’s particular special needs. At the current time, how many children attend the center? Are the children in the center supervised at all times? What types of foods does the center serve for meals and snacks? If your child has allergies, will the center be able to accommodate them?
Find out whether the center will be able and willing to integrate any applicable external services such as a physical therapist or speech pathologist, if they do not already have those services in place. What is the center’s policy regarding the administration of medication? Do they require a note from the physician? Where are medications stored in the center? You also need to find out as much information as possible about the center’s protocol for handling any emergency situation that may arise with a special needs child.
Health and safety are of vital importance for all children, but particularly so for special needs children. Carefully observe the center to note whether it seems clean and sanitary. Find out whether diaper changing stations are disinfected following each use. If your child needs assistance with toilet training, does the center assist with that?
Play time is obviously important for children of all ages and development ranges. What type of equipment does the center offer? Are the children allowed playtime outside? Will any existing equipment be accessible to your child?
Also, find out how the center handles discipline for children in their care? Is good behavior rewarded? How does the center communicate with parents regarding their child’s progress? Does the center have any type of system in place that allows for feedback from parents regarding the center’s program or curriculum?
You also need to make a point of finding out about the cost of the facility. The price of any day care center can vary, often based upon your geographic location. You should be aware that the cost of child care for special needs children may be reimbursed by some states. Reimbursement and coverage often varies widely from state to state. This is particularly true in terms of Medicaid.
Finding the right day care for your special needs child may seem like a daunting challenge, but by conducting research and asking the right questions, you can find a facility where your child will feel welcome and their unique needs and abilities will be met.