Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Child Care for Children with Disabilities

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Child Care for Children with Disabilities

Article excerpt

In 1995, approximately two-thirds of mothers with children younger than six years-old were employed. This means that alternate child care had to be provided for about 12 million children. Close to one million of those children had a developmental disability and required special care. In the past, many in the child care field have been slow to recognize their responsibility for serving children with disabilities. They cite their deficiency in appropriate training and/or the lack of proper accessibility accommodations in their facility.

Both of those disclaimers may have some validity. Traditional early childhood training programs have not included much information about children with disabilities. This problem is compounded when staff who have little formal training and experience are hired. Fear that making a mistake will exacerbate the child's problems is sometimes an overriding concern. Many child care programs, operating on the proverbial shoe string, would have difficulty raising enough money to adapt their physical environments to meet the standards required for special equipment.

I counter such attitudes by reminding child care providers that part of the increased recognition and acceptance that has legitimized their field in recent years is due to the passage of the landmark federal legislation--P.L. 94-142 and P.L. 99-457. The many early intervention programs developed as a result of funds provided through those bills have proved to be models for the kind of child care that was needed in our communities. They also served as some of the most persuasive research evidence that such programs are effective.

Child care is also education

P.L. 99-457 pertains to educational services, and there are still a few uninformed providers and legislators who like to maintain that child care and education are different services. They believe that child care exists to protect children while their parents work, whereas educational programs exist to foster their development. It requires only a minimum of logic to perceive the error in such an assertion: in today's world of high maternal employment, a child's educational schedule must fit into the family's work pattern. The protection and education of children should not be mutually exclusive.

For years I have promoted the term "educare" to signify the need to embrace a comprehensive service pattern. This is what parents want for their children with disabilities, and the need for such a service clearly strengthens its relevance. …

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