Needs assessment of inclusive child care for school age children with disabilities
Jinnah, Hamida Amirali
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Families having school age children with disabilities are increasingly relying on non-parental childcare for their children, like most other families in the U.S. In spite of these laws like the ADA and IDEA, parents still struggle with finding appropriate and accommodative out-of-school care for their school age children with disabilities. To explore this issue further, we conducted focus groups and phone interviews with 37 parents and 41 child care providers. Three related studies were conducted. In study 1, we examine the process through which families of school age children with disabilities seek care and to identify the points in the process where the system fails families. Using a flowchart (which we refer to as the ‘care cycle’), we outline a conceptual framework for understanding the extrinsic barriers with which families of school age children with disabilities are faced. We not only highlight the three main reasons why childcare becomes unavailable to families of these children but also provide some specific and practical solutions that have the potential to creatively address these barriers. In study 2, we focus on highlighting parent’s perspective on features that contribute to successful inclusion of school age children with disabilities in child care and other out-of-school settings. Parents identified a host of adaptations including adaptations of physical space and activities, adaptations focusing on peer socialization, supervision and safety, parent-provider communication, and those focusing on the attitude and skills of child care providers. Study 3 focuses on the challenges that providers face related to inclusion and the supports and resources they need to better facilitate overall development of children having disabilities. The challenges expressed by providers in our focus groups can be put into three broad categories - issues related to staff, the lack of resources and issues related to communication and collaboration between the different people involved. The supports that child care providers need to make inclusion work revolve around needing more training on disability issues, more resources including additional staff, more funding, more information about available resources, and greater communication and collaboration with parents, school teachers and therapists.