Special Needs for School-Age
Children: Child Care for Children with Special Needs
from Army One Source
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Things to consider when choosing child care for your child with
Is a special license required to
care for children with special needs?
What are my rights and what are the
responsibilities of the child care program and provider?
do I choose child care for my child with special needs?
the provider get ready
Helping your child and family get
Keep in touch with your provider
Choosing child care is a very
important decision for you and your child. It is important for
any parent or guardian, but because your child has special
needs, you may need to find a child care provider who has
special skills or qualities.
Special needs are often grouped by category or by disability,
such as developmental delays or physical disabilities. In this
booklet, "special needs" is defined as any type of need a child
may have, temporarily or permanently, that is beyond the range
of needs typically provided for in a child care setting.
Is a special license required to care for children with
Each state has its own licensing requirements for child
care, with rules about group size, the number of children per
caregiver, training, and other factors that affect child care
quality and safety.
There are no special licensing requirements to care for children
with special needs, although the individual needs of a child may
require certain skills or training. A child care program's group
size requirements do not change, but depending on the level of
care required by a child, a smaller group size may be more
appropriate. A quality program will try to make the necessary
arrangements and provide the resources to meet the needs of each
What are my rights and what are the responsibilities of the
child care program and provider?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that child
care programs cannot discriminate against individuals because of
a disability. It applies to all public nursery/preschools, child
care centers, and family child care homes, including programs
renting space in a religious facility. Only child care programs
operated by religious organizations are exempt. Such programs,
however, are covered by laws similar to the ADA in some states.
The ADA requires child care programs to take "readily
achievable" steps to remove architectural barriers in the center
or home. "Readily achievable" means without much difficulty or
expense. This might mean lowering coat hooks for a child using a
wheelchair, building a ramp, or screening off part of a bathroom
to provide privacy for the diapering needs of an older child.
Child care providers are also required to make reasonable
modifications to their programs to accommodate each child's
individual needs, such as offering developmentally appropriate
activities and providing additional supervision when necessary.
The ADA states that child care programs cannot:
Charge a higher rate for a child with special needs, but may
charge for "extra services" provided to a child with special
needs that are not within the range of care provided by that
program. (Examples of extra services would be speech/language
therapy or occupational/physical therapy.)
Deny admission to a child with
special needs because of an increase in the program's insurance
rates or cancellation of coverage.
Deny services to a child with
special needs even if a program for children with the same
disability is available in the community.
Exclude a child due to lack of
staff training if training is readily available at a reasonable
The ADA does permit child care
programs to deny services to a child with special needs if:
Necessary changes are too costly or difficult given the
resources available to the individual program. (This includes
tax credits, resources that might be available through school
districts or county health programs, and other outside funding
sources in addition to the internal resources of the program.)
There is a direct threat to the health and safety of others, and
this threat cannot be reduced or eliminated by reasonable
The child's needs are fundamentally different from what is
offered by the program.
How do I choose child care for my child with special needs?
Finding the right child care program for your family can be
a challenging and time-consuming task. Because your child has
special needs and may require additional care or supervision,
the child care provider you choose may need additional skills
and training. Give yourself plenty of time to visit and screen a
variety of programs so decisions do not have to be made quickly.
Starting a search two to four months before the actual starting
date is best. Finding a quality child care program that meets
your family's and your child's needs can be worth all the time
and energy invested.
Think about your child's needs
What expectations do you have for your child in a program?
Do you want your child to interact with other children? Do you
want your child to be included in all activities in the program?
Describe any concerns you may have about your child. It is
helpful to write them down. Start by listing what you would want
to tell a potential provider. For instance, does your child
require a special diet or need assistance with feeding? Does
your child require assistance with toileting or mobility?
Identify your child's strengths and interests, as well as the
challenges the special needs may bring.
Think about your family's needs
Why is child care required? Are you working or attending
school? Do you need free time or respite care? How many hours of
care will be needed each day or week? Will you need full-time or
part-time care? Which days of the week will you need care? Who
will drop off and pick up the child?
You also need to examine your own beliefs in the areas of
discipline, guidance, religion, and cultural beliefs. It may be
helpful to sort out what would be necessary and what would be
ideal in a child care setting for your family's needs. Providers
may be able to alter or adapt their existing program to meet
Starting your search
It is best to interview and visit a variety of child care
providers and settings so you are able to compare the benefits
of each program before making a decision.
As you make the first telephone contact with a child care
provider, be clear about your child's special needs as well as
your concerns. In addition to giving the provider information
about your child, you are able to get basic information about
the program. Listen attentively to the details the provider
shares with you. This is a good time to tell the provider about
any additional training or resources your child requires and
what support services are available.
Visiting the child care program after the telephone interview
Call and set up appointments to visit several child care
programs. Visit each program at different times during the day.
First, visit the program without your child. After observing the
provider, children, and setting, decide if you would like your
child to meet the provider and other children.
Choosing the right program
Focus on one or two programs. Do they have a well-balanced
program to meet your child's needs? Is the environment adaptable
and stimulating? Look at the amount of physical space. Is there
enough space with a variety of toys that are accessible and
interesting for all ages? Choosing the right program can be
rewarding and educational. Remember, you know your child best
and you are your child's voice. The best advice in choosing the
right program is to go with your initial feeling. It is usually
the best indicator.
Helping the provider get ready
You'll need to complete various registration forms for the
provider. There are several ways to assist the provider in
working with your child. You could suggest reading material
about your child's special needs. If your child has received
services from a professional for his or her special need, you
may want to give that information to the provider. You'll want
to demonstrate how to use certain equipment, how to position
your child, or how to contact other professionals who provide
services for your child.
Educate the provider about your child's personality, cultural
and family beliefs, and medical needs.
Try to help the provider prepare the other children for the
arrival of a new child. Books, role playing, and visits to
integrated programs are ways the provider can help children
understand special needs.
Helping your child and family get ready
Preparing for child care can be fun. Visit the program a
couple of times with your child before the first day. Talk to
your child about the provider and other children and what to
expect. Libraries and bookstores have a variety of resources
available on adjusting to child care.
Keep in touch with your provider
Communication is the key to successful child care
arrangement. Set up consistent communication with therapists,
early intervention consultants, and your child care provider.
Some families send a notebook back and forth, others make quick
notes on small tape recorders. You could also set up a few
minutes at pick up or drop off time, or schedule regular
meetings with all people involved in the child's development.
Developed by the Greater Minneapolis Day Care Association in
collaboration with PACER Center and Courage Center.
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