Finding and selecting child care is challenging enough. But when you have a child with a special need it presents an even greater challenge.
When my daughter Gabrielle was growing up, I was afraid to leave her in any one else’s care. No one could do as good a job as I could! However, our family could not afford to live on one salary so there was no other choice but for me to work. I planned well in advance and started searching for a program near my corporate office. I found a nice enough place five minutes from where I worked. I didn’t know about 4C for Children then, so I didn’t know what questions to ask or anything about what a quality child care program looks like. My criteria were cost effectiveness, location, openings and a warm and loving provider.
When Gabrielle was diagnosed with a special need and we were referred to Early Intervention (EI), I was determined that her child care experience not be shaped by her disability or have others stifle her growth. Our goals for her early years were for her to grow and blossom into her abilities.
I discovered that EI services could be delivered within her child care, but when my husband and I met with the director of her program and a Child Advocate, I was shocked when our request to have the EI specialist come in was denied. It was obvious to me from my few times visiting the program that Gabrielle wasn’t getting any stimulation or floor and tummy time, she always had a blank look on her face and was stuck in a swing or a crib. Although the director may have had her reasons for refusing EI services, we couldn’t allow Gabrielle to remain there. I was afraid for her development and wanted to put her in a program where she could thrive.
So our search for child care began again. Would anyone want to care for my child? I knew the second time around that Gabrielle had special needs and I was cautious about sharing that information. But I also knew I couldn’t not share it. I learned quickly to advocate for my little girl. When we finally found a program we liked, we had several discussions with the director regarding Gabrielle’s needs and her strengths. We explained that her teachers would have access to an EI specialist and Speech, Physical and Occupational Therapists. Even though the teachers hadn’t had much experience working with children with special needs, they were willing to learn and ready to embrace my daughter. I knew this was the right place for her.
Once I knew Gabrielle had special needs, I also knew I wanted her to be successfully included with her typical peers and to participate to the fullest extent possible. We wanted to encourage her to be as independent as she could, and I’ve always shared this vision with the various child care programs she’s been in throughout her life. I want Gabrielle to be a kid, first and foremost, and not just a kid with special needs.