Inclusive Child Care Environments
Prior to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1992 (ADA), many young children with disabilities were found in self-contained or special purpose early education classrooms and child care centers. With the passage of the ADA, child care providers are required to make reasonable changes to their program so that a child with a disability may participate.
Due to an emphasis on early identification and intervention, somewhere between 10% and 20% of all children could be defined as having special needs. Children's disabilities vary in both forms and in the degree of severity. They include but are not limited to physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy; auditory or visual disabilities; health impairments (asthma, diabetes); developmental disabilities; emotional disabilities, and speech/language disabilities. Child care providers have a responsibility to have an understanding of child development, to be a keen observer of children, and to be familiar with community resources available to assist children and their families.
Child Care regulations are intended to protect the health, safety, and well-being of children when away from their parents. The current regulation for child care center facilities (K.A.R. 28-4-435) and those for daycare homes predate ADA by almost 10 years. However, nothing within the current regulations poses an insurmountable barrier to the provision of services. Nor should a child care facility refuse to admit a child because of the regulations. Kansas child care regulations do not require children to be "potty trained" prior to entering any child care facility or age group within a facility, a common misconception. Good early childhood programs recognize the unique needs of every child in their care. Child care centers and homes should be proactive in their efforts to provide an inclusive environment for the children in their communities.
Child care staff working with all children should be adequately educated to meet the needs of the children in their care. Staff needs to have a good understanding of child development, developmentally appropriate practices, and individual program planning. Individual Program Plans help staff meets the needs of each child when planning learning activities, rearranging their home or classroom environment, planning menus, and working with parents and the community. Appropriate academic coursework is not limited to special education classes. Course work should be relevant to inclusion practices and should be appropriate to the age of the children in care. For example, classes in criminology or abnormal behavior would not be appropriate because children with disabilities rarely exhibit criminal or deviant behaviors.
Questions and comments about specific child care regulations as barriers to inclusive environments may be directed to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Child Care Licensing. Child care licensing staff work with child care partners to provide healthy, safe environments for all children.