Illinois child care providers need resources to serve children with disabilities

July 3, 2018, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Jenna Weglarz-Ward, an alumna of the U. of I.'s special education doctoral program, found in a recent study that child care providers in Illinois often lack the staffing, resources and accessible buildings needed to serve young children with disabilities. Credit: University of Nevada

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law nearly 30 years ago, a recent statewide survey of child care providers and early interventionists in Illinois suggests little has changed with regard to promoting the inclusion of infants and children with disabilities in child care settings.

Nearly 70 percent of the more than 991 professionals who completed the online indicated that they struggle or have some difficulties caring for infants and toddlers with , according to researcher Jenna M. Weglarz-Ward. She conducted that survey and a survey of more than 370 professionals while earning a doctorate in special education at the University of Illinois.

Despite the accessibility requirements for public buildings that were imposed by the ADA, people who responded to the surveys reported that a significant number of care programs are not designed to accommodate with disabilities—buildings are not accessible, rooms may be too small to accommodate wheelchairs, and facilities often lack the special equipment, assistive technologies, furniture and materials these children need.

Likewise, high student-to-caregiver ratios often leave child care providers with little time to address the individual needs of children with disabilities and to collaborate with early intervention providers, Weglarz-Ward said.

About 57 percent of the child care professionals who responded to the survey worked in , while 27 percent cared for children in family homes and 11 percent worked for the Head Start program.

Among the early intervention providers surveyed were speech and language pathologists and developmental, physical and occupational therapists. More than 80 percent of them reported having delivered services to children with disabilities in child care settings.

The numerous challenges that were reported by child care providers and early interventionists were not surprising, given the many longstanding barriers to inclusion that exist, Weglarz-Ward said.

"Although everyone who responded to the surveys wanted to include children with disabilities in child care, they felt their efforts were suppressed by all these barriers," Weglarz-Ward said. "We still haven't found the proper supports to overcome these barriers. However, many of the respondents offered really good ideas for adapting state-level and program-level policies and procedures to better serve children with disabilities."

Their suggestions included implementing state-level standards that promote high-quality, inclusive child care programs, and developing training requirements for child care providers to ensure they are comfortable with and prepared to care for children who have various types of disabilities, Weglarz-Ward said.

Although the Americans with Disabilities Education Act of 1990 mandates that children with disabilities be provided free and appropriate education services, there currently is little coordination among child care and special education programs, resulting in a fragmented system that families must navigate to obtain services for their children, Weglarz-Ward said.

Few of the surveyed child care providers reported having been included in coordinating early intervention services for children with disabilities who were in their care, even though prior studies indicated that families found it valuable for child care providers to be involved.

According to the study, "child care providers need to be seen as a vital part of the early intervention process. ...Providing them with appropriate training and resources would help them identify children in their care who may be in need of evaluation or intervention and support families as they navigate the early process."

"We need to look at child care as being part of the education system so that we're including children with disabilities in similar ways," Weglarz-Ward said. "We need to consider how we can include child care providers in planning these children's education so there's continuity and coordination."

Incorporating some of the mandates of the ADA, such as requiring that child care facilities be accessible, would help create a more comprehensive system that better supports children and their families, Weglarz-Ward said.

Explore further: Parenting, child care services have most potential to help low-income families

More information: Jenna M. Weglarz-Ward et al, Factors That Support and Hinder Including Infants with Disabilities in Child Care, Early Childhood Education Journal (2018). DOI: 10.1007/s10643-018-0900-3

Related Stories

Parenting, child care services have most potential to help low-income families

June 1, 2018
Child care, parenting and child health/health care are important factors in improving the lives of children in low-income families, according to a new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Learning disabilities: Kids and families struggle beyond the academics

June 28, 2018
Most research on learning disabilities focuses on remediating specific academic skills like reading and math. But struggles at school and with homework can create an enormous amount of stress and anxiety for children and ...

Study: Many parents of children with disabilities don't make care plans

February 9, 2018
Fewer than half of parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities make long-term plans about who will take over their child's care if the parent or other relative providing care dies or becomes incapacitated, ...

Head Start benefits children with disabilities

August 4, 2016
Young children with multiple disabilities who are enrolled in Head Start have better literacy, reading and math scores than children who aren't in the federally funded program, indicates a new study by Michigan State University ...

Babies of adolescents in CPS care more likely to be taken into care

May 30, 2018
(HealthDay)—Teen mothers who are in the care of child protection services (CPS) when they gave birth have more than a seven times higher likelihood that their child will be taken into care before age 2 years, compared to ...

Docs' preparedness influences exercise recommendations

November 19, 2017
(HealthDay)—Primary care providers who feel prepared are more likely to recommend physical activity to patients with disabilities, according to a study published online Nov. 16 in Preventing Chronic Disease.

Recommended for you

Digital media use linked to behavioral problems in kids

July 17, 2018
Are children who spend lots of time using digital devices prone to psychiatric problems? A team of USC scientists says yes in a new study that appears today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Childhood abuse linked to greater risk of endometriosis, study finds

July 17, 2018
Endometriosis, a painful condition that affects one in 10 reproductive-age women in the U.S., has been linked to childhood physical and sexual abuse, according to findings published today in the journal Human Reproduction.

Opioids given too easily to children: study

July 16, 2018
(HealthDay)—Many children are prescribed powerful opioid painkillers they don't really need, putting them and those around them at risk, a new study shows.

Self-control and obesity: Gender matters in children

July 16, 2018
A toddler's self-regulation—the ability to change behavior in different social situations—may predict whether he or she will be obese come kindergarten, but the connection appears to be much different for girls than for ...

Footwear habits influence child and adolescent motor skill development

July 11, 2018
New research finds that children and adolescents who spend most of their time barefoot develop motor skills differently from those who habitually wear shoes. Published in Frontiers in Pediatrics, this is the first study to ...

Parents who had severe trauma, stresses in childhood more likely to have kids with behavioral health problems

July 9, 2018
A new study finds that severe childhood trauma and stresses early in parents' lives are linked to higher rates of behavioral health problems in their own children.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.