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Special Needs – Caregivers

Information for Caregivers

Children with special needs are more like other children than unlike them, because all children share the same basic needs: acceptance, care, challenges, love, and support. However, a child with special needs does require special care because of emotional, health, intellectual, or physical reasons. This podcast will give you tips to evaluate children’s needs and develop a plan to provide the best care for each child.

Including a special needs child in your program can benefit you and all of the children in your program. You will learn about the child’s daily activities, development, and routines, and be able to work as a team with parents and other professionals to contribute to their success.

So what qualifies a child with special needs? Also referred to as children with disabilities, these are children who experience some delays in development. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, children with special needs have physical or mental disabilities that may limit them from “major life activities” such as breathing, learning, hearing, seeing, speaking, or walking.

There are many different types of special needs, and a child may have a combination of disabilities that make learning or other activities more difficult. Areas of developmental delays include communication, emotional and social, intellectual, and physical.

If you think a child in your care may have special needs, you should bring it to the parent’s attention if they are not already aware, and recommend an evaluation. As the child’s caregiver, it is important to provide parents with plenty of support and community resources. The child’s school district is often the best place to begin the evaluation process and obtain resources.

The challenges presented by special needs can make it common for caregivers and schools to separate children with special needs from other children, but children can still receive special services in inclusive environments. Inclusion allows all children, with or without special needs, to learn in the same environment and receive the support they need to be successful. Inclusion can benefit all children by helping them to learn, understand, and accept each other and their individual differences. It also gives children without special needs a chance to be role models for children with special needs. Helping or teaching activities to other children, such as washing hands, can build a child’s self-esteem and confidence.

Some ways to meet the needs of children with special needs in your care include the following:

  • Answering questions that children have about another child who is “different.” It’s important to show a positive attitude toward their questions and help them understand and accept a child who may be different.
  • Encouraging social interaction. Teach children how to play with and include a special needs child. You can also encourage friendships by helping a child with special needs be more involved with peers, encouraging play that includes all children, and praising children for positive interaction.
  • Providing additional support. You may need to give more attention to a special needs child than those without. Include all children in special playtimes or lessons to prevent them from feeling left out.
  • Allowing on-site services: a child with special needs may require special sessions with other professionals, such as medical specialists, nutritional therapists, or speech therapists while he is in your care. You may need to ensure that the child and therapist have a quiet, private area to conduct a session.
  • Changing the physical environment. You may have to rearrange the physical layout of your program. This may include widening spaces for a wheelchair or obtaining special equipment.
  • Attending trainings about working with special needs children, and speak to other caregivers and parents who care for special needs children.

Additionally, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, also known as IDEA, protects children with special needs by requiring public schools to provide free education, and requiring that each child has an Individualized Family Service Plan or Individualized Education Program. These are also referred to as IFSP and IEP.

If a child in your care is receiving special services, you may have the opportunity to participate in their IFSP or IEP. This would require open communication with parents and other professionals such as the child’s pediatrician and therapists, brainstorming and using methods to help the child as written in the IFSP or IEP, attending IFSP or IEP meetings, and providing feedback to parents and professionals about how the child is doing.

To find our printable brochure, “Special Needs – Information for Caregivers,” as well as other helpful resources for child care providers, please visit our “For Providers” section at www.chs-ca.org. 

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