As a childminder you want to make sure that your services are inclusive of all children, including those with learning disabilities. Not only will this broaden your working opportunities; this additional knowledge will make you a true asset to nurseries and parents.
So what can you do? How can you make your services more accessible?
The first step is understanding learning disabilities and what falls under its definition.
What are learning disabilities?
According to the Department of Health, learning disabilities are defined as a ‘significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information, to learn new skills, with a reduced ability to copy independently.’
Currently, there are thousands of children in the UK who have been diagnosed with some form of learning disability. Yet, there are thousands more who are yet to be diagnosed.
What can you do?
From providing a wider variety of interactive learning activities, to being more flexible with your timetable/routine; there is a lot you can do as a childminder to ensure that your childcare offering is truly inclusive.
Yet not everyone is flexible…
In fact, many parents struggle to find a professional childminder or nursery with the necessary skills/knowledge to properly care for children with learning disabilities.
But here is the thing – you don’t have to make massive changes to ensure that the children in your care remain safe and nurtured. By making a few simple adaptations/provisions to your services, it is possible to create a space where ALL children can play, learn and access activities.
- Create a plan with their parents – every child is unique and has different needs. For a child with learning disabilities these can often be complex, so it is important that you work alongside their parents so that you can adapt your childcare provision to suit their needs.
Changes can range from the amount of exercise they have, to the types of activities they want to do. Similarly, offering a more flexible timetable can ensure that their learning stays on track, but takes into account the difficulties they may face with certain tasks.
TIP: plan their childcare provision with the help of their parents, but also speak to their social worker (if they have one) or any other professional services their parents to get advice.
- Even the smallest of changes can have a big impact – despite claims that accommodating children with special needs/disabilities is expensive, too complicated or too disruptive to implement; countless studies have proven that small changes can have a big impact on children with learning difficulties.
Take for instance, creating a quiet space. Whilst children with learning disabilities may need the calm this kind of space creates more frequently; quiet spaces are ideal for any child.
This same rule can apply to other situations. So instead of believing that you’ll have to make massive changes in order to accommodate a child with a learning disability, remember this simply isn’t true.
- Accessible play equipment – all play equipment and toys should be accessible to every child within a nursery or childminding environment. However, the sad truth is – a lot of mainstream toys are not suitable for children with learning disabilities.
For this reason, consider doing the following:
– Improve the lighting in your playrooms – this will assist any child that has visual impairments and will enable them to see things better.
– Use different colours to identify different areas – for example use bright, happy colours in your playrooms, and muted colours in other spaces, so all of the children can differentiate between the purpose of each space and the behaviour they should adopt.
-Improve flooring – make sure it is non-slip and that there are no obstacles in the way. Similarly, consider incorporating walking aids from room to room to enable children to move around more freely. Also, try taking into consideration how the space looks and how it will impact children who may process visual information and clues more slowly.
- Inclusivity – this is not just about ensuring that all childminders and carers understand how to engage with children with disabilities. This is also about the other children within your care.
Now most of the time children rarely see the differences between themselves, so your task as a childminder is to ensure that you continue to model this behaviour so everyone in your care is treated equally and the same. The first step to achieving this is examining the language you use to interact and encourage children to play together. Your language should encourage them to engage, play and treat each other with fairness, kindness and as equals.
- Improve your skills – there are tonnes of childminding courses you can enrol onto that can provide you with specialist training on working with children with physical and learning disabilities. Many of these courses can be accessed online, allowing you to study whilst you work and achieve these qualifications in your own time.
And this can make a massive difference to your career, as not only will you feel more prepared to assist children with learning disabilities; the skills you’ll acquire will help you to create a safe, inclusive and nurturing play environment where they can grow and flourish.
So if you are interested in expanding your childcare offering, why not consider incorporating all of these into your childcare provision? Combined, they can help you to create a fantastic learning and play space for ALL children.