Childcare for a child with disabilities
There are a few extra things to think about when it comes to childcare for a child with disabilities, but a lot of the considerations are the same as for any other child.
Things to consider
No matter what your child's age, ability or circumstances, all parents would probably think about:
- what sort of childcare would work best for your family - a childminder, nursery or after-school care?
- is the carer registered with a Health and Social Care Trust (if your child is under eight years old)?
- will activities be appropriate for your child's ability?
- is the carer/setting safe, friendly and do you think your child will be happy in the environment?
You may also need to think about questions like:
- does the carer have experience in looking after a child with a similar disability, and if not, would they be happy for you to show them what’s needed?
- how much specialist care does your child need and is appropriate training available locally?
- does your child have therapy or appointments that they need to go to in the time they will be cared for and can your playgroup, nursery or school take your child to these appointments?
Children with medical needs
Does the carer need specialist training or equipment? Often carers have to have specific training to give medication. As a parent, you'll be shown how to give medication to your child by your doctor, nurse or health visitor. You can ask the same person to give this training to your child's new carer.
Your social worker or area special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) should be able to tell you more.
Early Years special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs)
Nurseries and schools may have a SENCO who will create opportunities for children with disabilities to enjoy all the activities the nursery or school has to offer.
Early Years area SENCOs (sometimes called inclusion officers) give additional support to nurseries and schools by giving training, offering specialist advice and liaising with schools when the child is ready to go to full time education. SENCOs and area SENCOs can give a lot of advice and support for parents who have children with special needs.
Children's Information Services and early education
Your local Children's Information Service will have details about the full range of childcare and early education opportunities in your local area. They may also be able to tell you about other specialist services that your child may need because of their disability, such as the Early Support Programme.
All children over three years of age are entitled to a free part-time place in an early years setting before they transfer to full-time school. If you want full-time daycare, you may be able to pay for additional hours at the early years setting so that you can start or return to work, or take a break from your caring responsibilities.
Childminders look after children in the childminder's own home. They are usually parents themselves and may have cared for a child with disabilities before. Visit the childminder to see the environment and if the other children are happy playing.
Talk to the childminder about the sort of activities they do and the care your child needs. You can use a childminder for all day, or else before-school or after-school care.
Nurseries are usually for children up to five years old. These places are usually given to children who need them the most. Talk to your social worker to see if there is a place in your nursery.
You may be offered a part-time place for free where you can pay the extra to make it up to a full-time place, if you want to. You may also be able to find a place for your child at a private day nursery.
Pre-schools or playgroups
Pre-schools provide care and early education for children aged between three and five years old, often in sessions lasting from two and a half hours to four hours. But some are now beginning to offer full-time places. Most are open during term time only, but check locally to see what is available near you.
As with day nurseries, free part-time early education places are normally available and additional support may be provided for children with disabilities through the area SENCO.
There are many out-of-school clubs and some schools are becoming 'extended schools', which offer breakfast clubs (from 8am) and after-school clubs (typically until 6pm). Find out from your child's school if these clubs are available.
Whichever service you decide on
Remember, you are the expert on your child. To get the best from childcare:
- give the carer clear and detailed information about your child's needs, medication, appointments, likes and dislikes
- take your time and visit the childminder, pre-school/playgroup or nursery (more than once if you want to)
- agree a 'settling-in' period - this is where you stay with your child to see how the carer and child get on together. Then you build up to leaving for short periods of time until you are comfortable to leave your child for the session
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 sets out two main duties for childcare providers:
- not to treat a child with disabilities 'less favourably'
- to make 'reasonable adjustments' for children with disabilities
An honest and open discussion about your child's needs with the childcare provider, involving, for example, an occupational therapist or psychologist where necessary, can often lead to a better understanding of your child's needs and how these can be managed.