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If you have a special needs child, you may be wondering what kind of childcare and education is best for them. Do they need to be in a group of other children with the same kind of needs, or can they benefit by being with children who don’t have similar issues? In this regard, you should be aware that Federal law specifies that special needs children have the right to be educated in the least restrictive childcare environment.

What Is Inclusive Childcare?

Regarding early childhood education, the term inclusion applies to the practice of placing children with disabilities in a childcare situation along with typically developing children in the same age group. Specialized support and instruction are available when needed. 

Benefits of Inclusive Childcare

Research has demonstrated that, when done right, inclusion can have a very positive effect on both young children with special needs and their typically developing peers. Some of the benefits of inclusive childcare for special needs children include:

  • The opportunity to learn by observing and interacting with other children in their age group. 
  • Having the time and support to develop relationships with other children.
  • The chance to learn and practice social skills in real-world situations.
  • Exposure to a wide variety of challenging activities.
  • A supportive environment providing the opportunity to learn at their own pace. 
  • The possibility to build relationships with caring adults outside of their own families. 

The Role of the Inclusive Childcare Teacher

All children learn a lot from unintended examples set by adults, and sometimes this is as much, or even more, than they learn from planned activities. This learning process is certainly true when a special needs child is enrolled in the classroom. 

Studies have shown that childcare providers who have participated in specialized professional development opportunities provide higher quality experiences for all the children in their charge. A good teacher in an inclusive classroom has a wonderful opportunity to help your special needs child by:

  • Creating and maintaining a physical and emotional environment where all the children are invited to participate and each child is treated with kindness and respect.
  • Answering each child’s questions in a straightforward and honest way and encouraging an open dialogue about disabilities (and abilities) among all of the children and their parents.
  • Helping children of different abilities to feel comfortable with each other and to develop friendships based on their shared interests.
  • Facilitating play and other interactions between children who differ in their abilities. 
  • Creating a sense of community where every child is valued as a unique individual with something special to contribute.

Why Your Special Needs Child Needs a Customized Plan

Your child’s primary caregiver/teacher should be involved in creating and implementing a customized plan for your child. These plans are divided into two groups.

  • Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) for children aged under three.
  • Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for children older than three.

Click on this link for more information about IFSP and IEP and how they differ.

Inclusive Childcare: Final Thoughts

For your special needs child, the opportunity to enjoy the experiences and relationships in an inclusive childcare program isn’t out of reach. Plus, if you live in Columbia, SC, and need in-home help, Caring Healthcare specializes in caring for children with special needs. So, please give us a call today to see how we can assist you.