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Children with Special Needs

Dear Debi,
I’m a child care provider for typically developing children and children with special needs. What are some strategies I can use to include all these children in my daily routine to keep them focused and interested?
Donna, Child care provider for six kids
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Observe your child
  • Work within your child’s learning zone
  • Be consistent
  • Repetition is key
  • Teach skills one step at a time
Expert Advice
Joan Maltese, Ph D
Joan Maltese, Ph D
Clinical psychologist, Inclusion expert
A child with special needs could mean a range of things –autism, Down Syndrome, mental retardation, or developmental delays. Many times we don’t know specifically yet what the delay or disability is. But if the child is not reaching the language or physical development milestones he or she should be reaching in their general age range, it’s something we would look at closely.

When parents have concerns they need to pay attention to their gut feelings and ask the questions that are concerning them. Once they bring up their concerns to a doctor or trained professional in child needs, they need to get an assessment.

What we know about brain development is that there is room to change the “wiring” in how the brain is working and to be able to get things back on track. That’s why early intervention is so important. You have the opportunity to teach the child skills they need that we could lose if it goes undiagnosed. The best window of opportunity to grasp the potential of a problem is before 3 years old. Even up to 5 years old, there is room for growing and laying down learning strategies.

When caring for a child with special needs, what’s essential is that there has to be an acceptance that not all children are the same and the parent and provider need to know the unique qualities of the child. It’s up to the adult to learn what their child’s strengths and limitations are. A provider may want to consider some extra help if you are taking care of more than one child and it seems that the child with the developmental delay is taking away too much of your time from caring for all the children. Regional centers offer services for kids with special needs under the age of three.

It really comes down to making a relationship with the child, and learning what accommodations need to be made. We may need to slow down a bit more for that child, or create a calmer environment, or we may have to provide some physical aid to help them reach for something. Sometimes all it takes is a sensory activity, like squeezing a ball or sitting on a chair that has some flexibility to calm a child down.
Child Care provider Comments
Theresa Quary
Theresa Quary
Mother of two kids, Daughter has Autism
At this time, my daughter Simone’s delays are on the speech side, and behavioral problems that we’re working on, such as social skills. She was diagnosed with autism at 18 months.

We started in the beginning as being part of an inclusion setting. There were kids in her infant toddler class that were typical and kids that were not. She was able to be around kids and notice what everyone was doing. It was nice to go to one place and be able for her to play with kids but also get her needs met from her therapist. That’s still what we’re doing now. She’s five and in kindergarten and it’s still an inclusion setting. She’s not pulled out of class. The therapist comes into her class and sits with all the kids – not just Simone – and when the therapist works with her, she’s working with her as a group. What we love so much about the inclusion setting is that what we started out with at 18 months is what we’re doing now at 5.
Verdis Ferraro
Verdis Ferraro
Child care provider for 23 years
One of the children I care for, Romeo, is 3 years old and has Down Syndrome. He’s been with me for 3 weeks so far. He has some swallowing issues and some language issues. From the very beginning we realized he had a “comfort zone.” His first day here, we had set up a book corner and he discovered it right away. On his second day, we had moved the books and it really threw him off. We quickly realized that he loved books and that he made the book corner his “comfort zone.” So we put the books back because that’s what he needed.

The first week he was here, we couldn’t get him to eat or drink at all. One day when his dad came to pick him up, we asked him to feed him while he was here so that he could know that it was OK to eat here. The next day, he wouldn’t eat again, but the day after that, I approached him when he was in the book corner and he ate. We noticed that he tends to eat later in the day so we gradually began to change the routine so that he would eat later in the day.

We try to move to the next step from his comfort zone. We want him to be involved with the other kids. One of the 4-and-a-half-year-olds loves younger children and has befriended Romeo and taken him under his wing.

Circle-Time Name Song Featured Activity:
Circle-Time Name Song
Kids with Special Needs Featured Video:
Kids with Special Needs
Topic: Special Needs
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