CHICAGO, July 5 (Xinhua) -- A survey of child care providers and early interventionists in the U.S. state of 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 child care professionals who completed the online survey indicated that they struggle or have some difficulties caring for infants and toddlers with disabilities.
Despite the accessibility requirements for public buildings that were imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people who responded to the surveys reported that a significant number of child care programs are not designed to accommodate children 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.
Meanwhile, 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.
About 57 percent of the child care professionals who responded to the survey worked in child care centers, while 27 percent cared for children in family homes and 11 percent worked for the Head Start program.
More than 370 early intervention providers surveyed are mainly speech and language pathologists and developmental, physical and occupational therapists.
"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," said Jenna M. Weglarz-Ward, a doctorate in special education at the University of Illinois (UI).
The researchers suggest 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.
The ADA 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.
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.
The study was published recently in Early Childhood Education Journal.