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I think I can…

Have you ever stopped to think about the power of self-belief?  – Henry Ford famously said “Whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right”.

It follows then, that children need to be surrounded by people who have high aspirations for them and instil that sense of self belief in them. Too often, however, when a child has additional needs or a disability it can cloud their self-belief and lead others to believe that they can’t achieve, leading to low expectations and as a result poor outcomes.

This article considers how childminders can best support children in their care who have additional needs and why they are often a provider of choice for parents and carers.

As a childminder you may find yourself caring for a child for whom you have some developmental concerns or you may be considering offering care for a child with identified additional needs. As a result, you might be asking what does having high aspirations and expectations mean in practice?

Firstly, be assured that much of it is embedded in your daily practice already. The Early Years messages within the SEND Code of Practice are framed around the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework – a document that we are all comfortable and familiar with.

Developing a child’s confidence and self-belief needs to start early so as a childminder you will need to focus on the child’s strengths, identify their needs and next steps in learning and provide opportunities for them to develop.

This will be familiar as it is basically what the EYFS promotes you do for every child!

How to work in partnership with parents

Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) sometimes choose childminders over larger settings as they are reassured that their child will receive the attention and care they need in a home-based environment.

It allows parents to build a highly personal relationship with the childminder who is able to become an important adult in the child’s life with the added advantage that it can be continued after a child goes to school as childminders can offer wrap around care.

The childminder can therefore be a great reassurance to parents who know that their child is being cared for by someone that fully understand their needs and is a stable presence throughout their journey through education.

Professional partnerships

There may be a lot of other people and agencies supporting the child, so it is important that you fully understand their role and the role you can play in supporting to achieve the desired outcomes.

Discuss this with the parents/carers and gain their permission to share information with the key people concerned, and if possible attend any meetings arranged. The childminder has a key role here, keeping aspirations high by contributing information about the child’s strengths, their learning and development and by planning to support any interventions in their day to day practice. 

The two-year-old review is an ideal opportunity for early identification of need and an opportunity to work in partnership with parents and health professionals.

Parents will, most likely, value this support as navigating your way through several services can be emotionally draining.

Getting the right support

As a childminder working alone you can feel isolated at times especially if you are concerned about meeting a child’s needs. To overcome this try to build a network of people you can meet with, chat to or call when you need support.

Start with your Local Authority (LA) Area SENCo – introduce yourself and ask for support and advice in areas you feel you need it. Next, build a strong relationship with any outside agencies that the child is receiving services from, so you have a clear picture of need. Do your research, many LAs have downloadable SENCO toolkits that you can adapt for your use and there is usually training on SEND from your LA.

Make the most of any training you attend to form networks of people you can call on. It is most likely that they will be glad of support as well and be keen to say in touch.

Thinking about where your children transition to can be helpful as well. Make an appointment to visit the local school SENCo with the parents as early as possible so they can fully support the child make the transition into school.

These simple steps will mean there will always be someone to talk to when you are unsure of anything.

A childminder has a powerful role in raising aspirations, they can walk the journey of the child, supporting them at each transition and championing their needs in partnership as they go.

Listening to parents, working with them to ensure the best for their child at every stage and supporting them through their child’s plan will be highly valued. Trust your professional judgement and keep the needs of the child at the centre of your practice and you will be helping to build high aspirations and the foundations of a successful future for each child in your care.

Do you think you can?

If you already have or are considering offering a place to a child with additional needs you can find a wealth of practical help and resources in the Achievement for All Childminder Professional Development modules, developed in partnership with PACEY.

These modules are specifically developed to support you in three key areas: Parents in Partnership, Understanding Behaviour, Working in Wider Child-Centred Partnerships

For a limited time until 31 May 2019 this is now offered to you for only £44.95, with a further 10% discount for PACEY members. Find out more at: pacey.afa3as.org.uk 

About the author

Maureen Hunt is the Early Years Lead for Achievement for All where she is responsible for the design and the delivery of their award-winning programme for Early Years settings - “Achieving Early” and the Childminder Professional Development module developed in partnership with PACEY.

Maureen’s background is in Early Years and Infant education and has also worked in the voluntary sector and Local authority children’s services.

Maureen holds a B.ED, a Master’s Degree in Education,  the  NPQH and the National Award for Special Educational Needs co-ordination. Maureen regularly contributes to publications including Early Years Educator, Nursery world and Every Child Journal.

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