Attending childcare or preschool
Finding the right early learning environment for your child can be one of the most stressful things in the early years.
All of our kids deserve a loving and welcoming educational setting, as do their parents. Aim high and look for the very best, with great teachers and a positive, encouraging atmosphere.
It’s vital for the early learning centre to work hand in hand with your early intervention program. Do not accept anything less!
The role of daycare in early intervention
There are many terms used for educational childcare setting: daycare, family daycare, preschool, kindergarten and others. In this section we will refer to all of these as daycare
If your child is not already attending some form of childcare when they are diagnosed with autism, you may be wondering whether they should start or wait. If your child does already go to preschool or daycare then your question may be whether to keep them enrolled.
Many families wonder about the role of daycare during the early intervention years. The importance of Early Intervention. is well known, but families are also aware of the importance of daycare for a child’s social skill development and for learning in their natural environment. There are also the very practical issues of parents needing care for their children whilst they work.
In fact, both Early Intervention and daycare are important for young children. Whilst daycare is not a substitute for specialised and individualised early intervention, it is important in its own right. Daycare and early intervention can complement each other.
Some young children may initially only do early intervention at home or in a clinic or autism-specific centre. The aim at this time is for the child to learn the skills they will need later in a mainstream daycare setting. These include things like understanding simple instructions, learning to attend, to sit still and to be comfortable around other children.
Most daycares in Australia will have experience of children with autism. It is not unusual to find one in almost every daycare room in the centre. They will also have experience of children with other developmental delays and disabilities. For early learning centres, it is best practice to have early childhood inclusion for children with disabilities and additional needs. If you do some across a daycare which has no experience of autism then you will need to work closely with them. Your therapy team will also need to assist them to set things up well for your child.
It is worth remembering that very small children do not necessarily see autism, certainly not in the same way adults do. They generally only care if another child is prepared to play with them.
The key to a happy and successful experience is developing a partnership between the different people involved in your child’s health and wellbeing. Try to foster and encourage a positive and supportive communication channel between your early intervention therapists and your daycare.
The goal is growing your child’s skills, so they can develop and increase their ability to learn - always keep this thought at the centre of your decision making.
But keep in mind that your child is one of many in their care so make it easy for your child’s daycare and be proactive.
When new skills are learned in early intervention it is ideal to then practise them in daycare and at home. Working together will increase the speed of the child’s learning.
Examples might include:
Keep a book or folder, like a guide for your child, where you can summarise the goals and activities that the early intervention therapists are working on and prioritising. This will help the educators and carers to follow up and reinforce the same messages and practices in a natural, everyday environment.
It is advisable to work with your child’s educators to implement a strategy for sharing information. Many centres use interactive software that allows you and the educators to communicate effectively. Although you could also do it the old-fashioned way and have a conversation!
Simply being with crowds of children and learning to listen to a teacher are crucial skills that can be most easily learned in a daycare setting.
If your child does need extra help, there is extra government funding available to assist your daycare.
The Inclusion Support Program funds approved child care services, including out of school hours and holiday programs, to include all children in their programs, even children with high support needs.
You may use some of your early intervention funding to send a therapist into the daycare to ‘shadow’ your child. This means that the therapist assists your child as needed. The aim is always for the child to become more and more independent.
It is very important that your family feels welcome in your daycare setting. You do not need to feel grateful that a daycare will take your child who now has a diagnosis of autism. This is part of what daycares do. The learning and inclusion of all children in these settings benefits all of the children and society as a whole.
Finding a centre that wants to partner with you to help your child reach their potential and to transition to school is an important part of your early intervention journey.
See our early intervention section for more information.