Most practitioners in Early Intervention are going to visit a child at a childcare facility at some point. Admittedly, walking into a childcare center can lack the warm appeal of entering a home. The hug from the child at the door and the parents’ appreciative greeting are often replaced with an impersonal, and perhaps wary, welcome. Practitioners, take heart! A few simple steps can transform you and the childcare center staff to dynamic team.
Step 1: Define Your Purpose
Many childcare providers have little experience with Early Intervention and do not fully understand your role. Let them know that they can assist in defining your role! You are there to help maximize the potential of the child at their facility, not to impose your own schedule or agenda. You can team up together to decide how that should look. Examine the child’s daily routine and schedule. Ask the staff when they feel they need the most assistance, and when the child is the most receptive. This communication session can also help avoid schedule conflicts, such as interfering with a child’s nap, or drop off time.
Step 2: Join In!
Circle time can be difficult for a child with developmental delays. That is where the practitioner shines! Rather than pulling a child out of circle time to work one on one, join in circle time (or snack time, or craft time.) Most teachers are grateful to have extra help and they appreciate strategies that engage all of the learners. If the child has trouble sitting and attending, problem solve with the teachers to find ways to make this easier for the child. One method could involve having the child stand holding a prop, or pointing to the pictures in the book that the teacher is reading. Join in while the teacher serves snack to all of the children so everyone can learn the signs for “cracker.” Facilitate a center during free play that not only engages the child that you work with, but promotes language or social interaction with other children. Remember your role as coach to the teacher, too. Find out what’s important for the child to learn during the day while at childcare and partner with the teacher to find strategies that she can use during the week and between your visits.
Step 3: Involve Childcare in IFSP Planning
It is quite possible that the staff at the childcare center see the children for the majority of their waking hours. Consequently, they know the child very well, yet are often an untapped resource! Let the parents and service coordinators know that the childcare staff can be invited to IFSP meetings. The childcare providers will appreciate that their input is valued, and the communication that can be facilitated with EI staff, parents, and the childcare staff will be invaluable in helping this child reach his full potential.
When proper planning and communication are utilized, ringing the bell at that childcare center may end up becoming one of the highlights of a practitioner’s week!
What strategies do you use to collaborate with reluctant child care providers? How do you help them feel like they are an important part of the team?
Amy Lynn is a special educator teacher and EI practitioner in Southern NJ. She have been in the field of special education for 20 years, working with children and families in both the public and private sector. In 2012, she was the recipient of the Ruth K. Newman Award for excellence in the field of special education. She is also a member of Council for Exceptional Children. You can reach Amy at Amelyn@comcast.net.