Children with Disabilities and Individual Needs

What is an Inclusive Child Care Program? What are a program’s legal responsibilities?

Inclusion embodies the values, policies, and practices that support the right of every child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society. The desired results of inclusive experiences for children, with and without disabilities, and their families include a sense of belonging and membership, positive social relationships and friendships, and development and learning to reach their full potential. The defining features of inclusion that can be used to identify high-quality child care and education programs are access, participation, and supports. (Adapted from: DEC/NAEYC. (2009). Early childhood inclusion: A joint position statement of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute.)

In an inclusive program, children with and without disabilities have access to the same routines, play, and learning experiences. Providers in inclusive programs learn to recognize children as individuals with unique strengths, needs, abilities, and interests. They continually make creative accommodations and modifications to routines, play, and learning activities so that each child benefits from participation.

The Maryland State Department of Education is dedicated to making high-quality child care and education programs accessible to all children. Therefore, aspects of quality related to inclusion are directly incorporated into Maryland EXCELS standards.

A Parent’s Guide to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Child Care provides families with information about how the ADA applies to child care programs.

How do I find a program that will meet my child’s needs?

Regardless of a child’s ability or disability, choosing child care can be challenging for families. Children with disabilities, according to the ADA, cannot be excluded from programs solely on the basis of their disability. It is important that families have the proper information and know the right questions to ask when looking for care for a child with special needs. Maryland Family Network offers LOCATE, a free service that assists any family who has a child (birth through age 21) with a special need with finding child care.

Can my child receive special services or therapy while in child care?

It is highly recommended that families involve their child care provider in the planning and/or implementation of their child’s Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Plan (IEP) so that their child receives the most comprehensive and complete system of services.