Hamida Jinnah & Dr. Christine M. Todd -- Department of Child and Family Development,
Anika Francis -- Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology, and
Dr. Zolinda Stoneman -- Institute on Development and Disability
The University of Georgia
College of Family & Consumer Sciences
Brief synopsis of study findings:
Almost 85% of children with disabilities in the study report being home with a parent during non-school hours and only 11% attend a child care center.
Parents of children with disabilities in the study highlighted that one of the biggest problems they face with child care is the lack thereof. According to parents, finding childcare settings that will accept their school age child with disabilities is a big struggle.
This problem gets especially exacerbated for some sub-groups of families like, those that have older children, children with behavioral disabilities, older children who need toileting assistance and families who live in rural areas.
The child care options available for children with disabilities are fewer than those for younger children. Therefore, finding child care is even more difficult for older children with disabilities.
There is a dearth of options for childcare for families living in rural areas, especially formal center-based care. Families in rural areas tend to use more FFN (friends, families, neighbors) care than formal center based care.
During summer, holidays and breaks, there is not much available even for typically developing children, and to find settings that can accommodate children with disabilities is a real challenge.
Lack of child care options for children with disabilities forces parents to either reduce their hours of work or not work and stay at home to take care of the child. When parents cannot work full time, it affects their income.
Even when children with disabilities are accepted into a childcare program, in many cases they are suspended shortly after, without consulting the parents.
In other cases, even when settings accept children with disabilities, they do not or cannot make appropriate accommodations needed for full inclusion of these children. Parents emphasize the importance of having age appropriate and individualized activities that meet the developmental needs of their children. Parents believe that child care providers need to do more to adapt and modify activities and setting to meet the needs of their child with disabilities.
When the child’s school does not provide (or include the child in) after-school care, transportation of children from school to other after-school settings is a big issue, especially if the parents are employed full-time.
Parents sometimes have to travel long distances to drop and pick the child up from child care settings. Sometimes there is too much traffic which takes up a lot of the parent’s work day time and the child gets too tired and stressed by the time he or she reaches the care setting.
Many children with disabilities need more supervision to ensure their safety and to promote healthy development. Parents in the focus groups believe that the number of adults per children in many child care settings, especially formal child care centers, is not sufficient to ensure adequate supervision and care.
Lack of adaptive equipment, lack of adequate staff for individualized supervision or simply lack of willingness to include them in all activities, are the things that prevent children’s full participation.
Children with physical disabilities are sometimes unable to participate fully in activities such as field trips that require special transportation. Having wheelchair vans for children with disabilities may be necessary to provide appropriate accommodation.
In addition to making sure their children have proper accommodations in the setting, parents have numerous concerns about their children with disabilities Parents fear that their child may fall, get hurt, run away from the setting or get hit by a car.
Children with disabilities need opportunities to interact with typically developing children in order to develop friendships and gain social skills. Parents believe that the staff should make special efforts to promote interaction between children with disabilities and typically developing children.
Parents would like providers to have a non-judgmental, loving and accepting attitude toward children with disabilities.
Parents believe that child care personnel need to communicate more with them regarding the child’s progress in the setting. If there are behavioral issues with the child, parents would like the child care providers to inform and consult them so that they could work on them together.
Parents would also like greater collaboration and communication between classroom teachers, therapists and school-age care providers so that the child gets integrated and holistic care.
Providers often are not ready to work with children having disabilities because of the fear that they may do something that might harm the child. Providing the staff with appropriate training related to disability issues is one of the best ways to cultivate a positive attitude toward children with disabilities in them.
Parents believe that in addition to the training on general disability issues, providers need to know more about specific disabilities so that they can understand and provide for the specific needs of children with different disabilities.
Parents would also like to see more supports available for family members of children with disabilities.