What do you do when you have a child in your program and you know deep down inside that this child has what you perceive as a "special need"? You have had this child in your care for some time and have consistently noticed some things that may be indicators for early intervention. Here are some steps that you might want to consider on behalf of this child. You have taken the first large step in becoming an advocate for this particular child. You have a perception as to his/her needing early intervention for a "special need" which may also be considered a handicapping condition.
There are several avenues available to you in New York State. From birth until the child's third birthday the county in which the child lives (depending on your state or province) is responsible for providing some kind of assessment of his condition and then help. After the child's third birthday, the child's school district is responsible for this assessment and help. To many of us that is the easy part. The hard part is for a provider to approach a parent with a concern. Sometimes it may be the parent who comes to us with the questions. We should have the name and number of our local Health Department and the name of a contact person who handles this program. If the child is three we should have the name and number of the school district and the name of a contact person.
If you have to go to the parent with a concern please consider the following things while bringing this information to their attention concerning their child. There may be some denial on the parents part as well as anger for having to hear your message. This should not deter you from voicing your concerns never the less. When parents find out that the assessments are free and so are the services offered to deal with the condition most relax and are willing to at least have the evaluation done and speak with the program administrators, concerning their child.
Some providers sometimes feel that there is a disruption in their program scheduling when a child receives therapy in their program setting. You may insist that the parent have the therapist contact you, the provider and set up a schedule that meets the scheduling needs of your program. You can also inform the therapist that it would be helpful for you to know exactly the kinds of things they are doing to assist a child. When you are part of the information loop you can make use of the therapist advice and include some of the things they are doing with the child to keep some continuity going. If you know a speech therapist plays a certain game a certain way with a child you can play that way too for reinforcement.
You may also find that you cannot compel a parent to get their child evaluated. If that is the case just make a notation in the child's records along with any written notes shared with the family detailing your concerns for this child. It is much easier to begin this help for a child as soon as it is noticed and documented. It is usually harder to work on the problem once the child enters school but not impossible. It may take much longer at that point. Also be aware that some parents think that the problem will magically go away once they pass through the school doors. We know that isn't the case but we have to accept the parents role in all of this. The only time you don't have to accept this is when you truly think that a parents unwillingness to seek help for their child comes under the heading of neglect. If you feel it is heading in that direction you are compelled by the terms of your license to make the phone call.
This is one of the hardest things a day care provider has to say to a parent. We all hope for perfection in our children and it is frankly a myth. If we have good documentation of our concerns and can point the parents in the right direction to follow up on our concerns then we have been an advocate for the child.
For further information concerning this issue please check out the following web sites on the internet or call you local Health Department for assistance.
Information relevant to your child's first years: http://firstyears.excite.com/
An On-Line Handbook for Child Care Providers (See "Children with Special Needs"): http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/hip/ABC/abc.htm
Virtual Daycare - This site has hundreds of links that deal with disabilities and handicapping conditions: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Shores/2525/index.html