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Bright Horizons

Working with disabled children

Caring for deaf childrenHome-based childcare can provide an excellent setting for caring for disabled children. Each child is different and it's important to get to know each child really well as an individual to understand how best to meet their needs.

Special educational needs

Understanding of the child's specific needs will come as you observe the child, and use what you see and hear to help you understand how the child is developing and what activities and experiences you can offer that will help their development.

Speaking in detail with a disabled child's parent is crucial as well - after all, a child's parent knows them best.

These principles hold fast for working with disabled children and those with special educational needs (SEN), just as much as for working with other children. The most important thing to remember is that disabled children are children first – you should focus on the child as an individual and not on their impairment or condition. (This is called the "social model" of disability.)

Vacancy matching service

PACEY's vacancy matching service, in partnership with iChild, allows you to advertise your vacancy and promote your business as offering specialist care for disabled children. If you're a childminder member of PACEY, update or add your listing today. Visit MyPACEY to access your vacancy matching benefit now.

Getting to know disabled children

When you talk to the child's parents, base your discussion on asking them to describe a typical day in their child's life, and ask the same kind of questions you would ask when preparing for any new child, such as:

  • What does your child like to do?
  • What do they enjoy playing with?
  • What kinds of things may they need help with e.g. putting on shoes, washing, using the toilet, meal times, and how should this be offered?
  • Do they have any specific health or dietary needs?
  • What do they like to eat?
  • What other settings do they go to, such as a preschool/ nursery class, school, or residential breaks?
  • What else do I need to know in order to meet your child’s specific needs? (You can use this question as an opportunity to open up discussion about possible medication, invasive treatment, physical access requirements etc.)

Invite the parents and their child to spend some time in your home before the childminding arrangement begins (as you would do with any new child), to discuss ways you can adapt your service to ensure their child is fully included and feels secure. Above all, be positive and welcoming and emphasise that you want to provide the best possible care for their child. This will help parents feel more confident that you are pleased to accept their child, and to adjust your setting to meet the child’s needs.

Gathering information

Sensory roomYou could ask whether the child is already part of an Early Support Pilot Programme, or holds an SEN Statement or has a Parent-Held Child Health Record. Information from records like these can help you plan appropriate care.

It is important to look at the needs of each individual child. Don’t make assumptions, for example that all children with a particular condition or impairment need constant one-to-one care, or that disabled children can't be cared for alongside their non-disabled peers, or require specially adapted furniture and play equipment. Many disabled children require you to make little adjustment to your service; others may have a number of specific needs that could involve intervention.

Parents are always your best point of first contact. Discuss with them how they get advice on the best ways of looking after their child, and ask if you can share access to this expertise. For example, you may be able to talk to health professionals or the Area SEN Coordinator (SENCO). Why not find out about toy and equipment loan services in your area, and whether you could join a childminding network which would be a source of extra support and information?

Specialist charities

Although Scope is known primarily as a cerebral palsy charity it offers a wide range of training and free download resources for parents and practitioners on all disabilities and impairments. You can also access their web tool, Celebrate every step. The tool enables parents and the team around a child to track progress in young children with complex support needs through play.

Want to be part of PACEY? Join online here or if you’re already a member login to MyPACEY