Monday, 16 October 2017 03:16

Tips for finding Childcare Services for a Special Needs Child

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Parents who care for special needs children face unique circumstances when it comes to finding childcare services that are consistent, compassionate, and of high quality. You have more to consider to insure that your child’s needs are addressed and proper communication occurs between you, your child’s medical team, and the childcare provider. You have to research thoroughly and prepare specific types of questions to find the arrangements that best suit your family situation and your child’s medical, developmental, or behavioral special needs.

Whether you are returning to work after being at-home with your child or you have a school-age child who has recently been diagnosed with a special need, a few of the most crucial aspects of childcare you will want to look for include:

  • Experience with your child’s particular health, behavioral, developmental, dietary and other needs
  • Understanding of the challenges of working with special children
  • Knowledge and experience of adaptive strategies for working with special children
  • Experience recording data that may be important to your child’s therapeutic care plan

Character traits in your care provider, such as compassion, patience, trustworthy and a loving presence are equally as important as their skills and experience. 

Type of Care: At-Home or Special Needs Childcare Center?

The decision about providing care at home or bringing your child to a facility outside the home is based on several factors, some of which are:

  • Logistics: driving distance to/from a care center, home and work
  • Cost of at-home versus facility care
  • Traditional daycare facility or special needs facility
  • Availability of qualified in-home care providers

While all daycare centers must admit children regardless of disability, a special needs daycare center may be able to better service children with complex needs or those who require special resources/equipment or individualized care. A specialized nanny or at-home care provider may be the right choice for children who have complex disabilities and require one-to-one care. Cost and logistics are something that each family has to assess for themselves. No doubt, you want to strive for the best care at the most affordable price for your budget. Whether you choose at home care or a daycare facility, you’ll want to do your homework.

Researching Care Options for a Special Needs Child

Before you jump on Google to research childcare options, there are important questions you need to answer about your family situation and your child. 

  • What are your most important logistical needs for work/family balance?
  • What is a reasonable commuting distance from home/work to the facility?
  • What is your family budget for childcare?
  • What are your child’s most crucial needs (consider social, behavioral, developmental, physical, emotional components)?
  • On a daily basis, what does your child do well? What does your child struggle with?
  • Overall, what are your child’s strengths? Their weaknesses?
  • How well can your child communicate with others, individually and in groups?
  • In what environments does your child thrive (feel safe, able to engage)?
  • What is needed in a given environment to support your child when they withdraw?

Answering these types of self-assessment questions (see Resources below for more) combined with discussion with your child’s therapeutic team will help you do good research and make the best choice for your family and child. This also provides you with good information that you’ll need when you start talking to care providers. 

Questions to Ask Care Providers

A variety of resources are available online and from national agencies to help you plan the types of questions to ask a care provider, be it an at-home agency /provider service such as or or a childcare facility near your home. The specific questions you ask will be relevant to your self-assessment and your child’s special needs. Some of the more important topics to inquire about include questions about 

  • staff training including on-going training 
  • emergency procedures and site safety
  • communication plan between the provider, the family, and the child’s medical team
  • developmentally appropriate engagement
  • methods of encouragement that aligns with your child’s diagnosis and socialization level

 A good resource for questions and checklists and the types of information that should be shared with caregivers has been created by the Maryland Family Network for Inclusive Child Care. The Directions resource from the State of Connecticut provides information about how to organize your child’s health information and includes everyday childcare options that you may need to think about for your child.

Once you’ve done your research, checked references, and have narrowed down your options, ask if there is a “trial day” or “trial week” available. Observe your child’s response to the care provided. Does your child respond to the providers and the new experience in ways that are typical for them? Or, is there an unexpected escalation in problem behavior? There will always be a challenge when a special needs child encounters a change in routine; you are looking for evidence that the childcare service can provide an atmosphere within which your child can thrive in response to the level of care that is required of her or his special need.


In addition to these resources, Google “special needs childcare providers in (your town or county)”. 

Special Needs Resources Connecticut via provides listings and a wide variety of information about government and non-profit resources, commercial and national resources. Sub-categories for different needs (i.e., Autism, assistive technology, family support)

CT Department of Public Health has a Child Development Infoline and care coordinator, brochures, respite/emergency funding resources, and materials to help you plan and coordinate care.

Directions is a CT Public Health guide to help you plan and coordinate care for your child or adolescent with special health care needs.   In Directions you will find:  ways to organize your child’s health information; information about caring for your child’s special needs; resources; and tips from other parents of children with special health care needs. Interactive Childcare Safety Checklist

Respite Care for Children with Special Needs is a resource to help a caregiver take much needed “personal time” while entrusting their special needs family member to the care of a qualified individual. It explains why respite care is important for full-time caregivers, how to access funding, and how to select a respite caregiver. ** 

**The Talcott Center Blog will feature an article about this topic in the near future.

Read 158 times Last modified on Wednesday, 18 October 2017 12:27

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