Caring for a disabled child - a childcare provider's view

What's it like providing childcare for disabled children? There are over 350 childcare providers in York and we spoke to just one of them to give an account of their experiences. They gave us an insight into their experiences of providing childcare and what their advice would be for parents or carers.

Helen at Polly Anna's Nursery gives her experience.

Can you give us some background into how you got into working with children?

I first started working for a local respite home that catered for short term respite stays for both adults and children. I especially enjoyed caring for the young children that came to stay; this gave me a wonderful insight into the needs of children with disabilities and learning difficulties, both emotional and physical.

I have also worked as a nanny for a local family who had three primary aged children. It was always my aim to work with young children.

After college I started working as a teaching assistant at a local primary school, this also meant I could continue working as a nanny - this job lasted 5 years and the opportunity came for me to open my own nursery with my parents, a dream come true!

17 years later I'm still running the family nursery and still have the privilege of seeing children arrive as babies and leave as confident and capable pre-schoolers, ready for school.

What types of support can you offer or have you offered to families of disabled children or children with additional needs? 

When I opened my own nursery, having an enabling environment for ALL children was high on my priority. I wanted to make sure that the nursery was as inclusive as it possibly could be and welcoming to children of all abilities.

As a whole team we aim to work in partnership with the family, offer the child and their family support and reassurance that whatever the child's need, with small steps progress can be and will be made. It really is about helping each child reach their full potential - what ever level that may be.

We cared for a young child with complex health needs, cerebral palsy, and many more physical difficulties that affected the child’s health. We received a call from the community nurse who was supporting the family. I was on the telephone for over half an hour, enthusiastic and keen to hear all about the little girls needs, explaining about my role as SENCo and how we can meet the needs of the child.

Instead of seeing barriers, we saw what we could offer for this little girl. I was confident that my team had the love and care she needed, as well as the skills to work in partnership with her family and what other agencies may be involved along the line, or in the future. We accessed specialist in-house training delivered by trained nurses, and the little girls Mum - this was so empowering for the parents to be involved, alongside the staff. Really positive relationships were formed and so much confidence was build.

What do you think is most important to make childcare work for disabled children or children with additional needs?

  1. Partnership with parents is what really makes caring for a child with a disability a success.
  2. Open communication at the very start.
  3. The offer of reassurance and support in whatever way they need it.
  4. Liaise with professionals. We did a lot of liaising with outside professionals. it's important to keep up to date with what appointments the child has had and the outcome or any action required by the nursery.
  5. Training is important for all staff. This can be so vast, so it's best to have a training plan in place to ensure that all practitioners working with the child feel confident and knowledgeable about a condition, or a diagnosis, but mainly about the needs of the child. 
  6. Most importantly think about what the child needs too!

What advice would you give to a parent of a disabled child who is looking for childcare?

  1. Look ahead and ask the setting about their aims for children with SEN.
  2. Seek how the childcare provider approaches care and learning. It's important that the setting assigns a key person for the child and the family.
  3. Ask for the settings SEN policy. Are the staff up to date with current legislation and practice?
  4. Are staff speaking with confidence and not fear?
  5. Share the full story about the child. Letting the staff know all the information helps make sure the setting can cater for the child's every need. It ensures the setting can be prepared and make any necessary adjustments to ensure they can meet the full needs of the child.

Is there anything else you would like to say about childcare for disabled children or children with additional needs?

Looking after a disabled child or child with additional needs, is not necessarily about having fancy equipment or specialist training. It's about making sure the setting and the practitioners working with a child who has a SEN or disability receive additional support via meetings.

Time should be available for meetings with the family, with other professionals or for holding review meetings together as a team around the child. The time that is required should never be underestimated and should be offered as part of the whole package.



York Family Information Service and Information Service for Young People

01904 554444 / 01904 555400

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