Finding the right day care is just as important as finding the right doctor and caregiver. Day care can be a safe and positive place for your child to grow, and it can give you valuable time alone to work or take a break.
When you have a child with a disability or special health-care needs, it can be a little tricky to find the right day care. Some day cares will be better equipped than others to meet your child’s unique needs, so it’s important to do your research and shop around before making this decision.
Is It the Right Center for Your Child?
Here are some questions to consider when figuring out if a particular day care center is right for your child:
- Is including children with disabilities or special health-care needs part of their philosophy? Do the teachers embrace working with children like your child?
- Are the teachers and children happy? Smiling? Engaged with each other? How many children and teachers are in the classroom? Will teachers be able to give your child individual attention?
- Do teachers have the training and support to handle your child’s unique needs? Can they integrate your child’s therapy services into the classroom?
- What developmental activities do they use? Do they create individual learning plans for each child?
- Is the environment accessible for your child? Will they be able to use the toys and learning materials?
- How does the center work with parents? How are they going to talk to you about any issues that come up?
- Do you trust the teachers who will be taking care of your child?
It is also a good idea to search for each day care on the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) website to see if any have licensing violations.
Know Your Rights
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires day care centers to try and include children with disabilities or special health-care needs. This means that you have every right to ask any center to meet the unique needs of your child, but also know that there are limits to what the center has to do under the law. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, you can ask for:
- Reasonable modifications. These are changes to the program that can be made without a lot of difficulty or expense to the center, like removing obstacles, moving learning materials within your child’s reach, or allowing you to provide a one-on-one aide for your child. Centers aren’t required to change their program in more expensive or dramatic ways, like hiring new staff or changing a child’s diaper when they would not otherwise do so (for example, for an older child).
- Tools and services to communicate with your child, such as using sign language, having an interpreter, or offering larger print books. It does not include providing hearing aids. If the tools and services your child needs are going to create an “undue burden” on the program – financial or staff – they are not required to provide them. Of course, you can always provide your child’s tools yourself and train teachers how to use them.
- An individual evaluation. A day care center can’t automatically reject a child just because they have a certain disability or diagnosis. The center must review each child’s unique needs to see if there is a way to accommodate them.
- There are only 2 reasons a day care center can refuse services to a child with a disability or special health-care needs:
- If caring for the child would require the center to fundamentally change its program. This could include hiring extra staff, changing what they teach, or making expensive changes to their facility.
- If the child’s presence poses a direct threat to others.
- This second point can create very difficult situations. If your child is biting or hitting other children, the day care center can refuse services or ask your child to leave. But, if this behavior is related to your child’s disability or special health-care needs, you have the right to work with the day care to remove the threat. This could mean creating a behavior modification plan together or providing an aide who gives your child one-on-one support.
Finding Day Care Centers in Your Area
Begin your day care search with these ideas:
Questions to Ask a Day Care Center
- What licensing or certifications do you have?
- What is a typical day like for children here?
- What training does your staff have? Are they all certified in CPR and First Aid?
- How do you handle napping, diaper changing, and toilet training?
- What do you do if a child is hurt?
- What’s your plan for a fire or other emergencies?
Paying for Day Care
The cost of day care can be very high. Research these options to help you with the cost:
Suggested Links to Additional Resources
The Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services booklet “Beyond Early Childhood Intervention” provides advice for parents of young children transitioning out of ECI and into other community services: