How to Advocate for Your Child in Childcare Settings

small trucks on rug with children in background

According to Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), early intervention (EI) services are provided, to the maximum extent, in families’ natural environments – settings where children would typically spend their time if they did not have delays or disabilities, including families’ homes, parks, and community settings, such as libraries, grocery stores, and childcare. If your child’s natural environment includes childcare, you can use your expertise to collaborate with childcare providers to promote your child’s learning and participation at childcare.

What are some simple and effective ways to advocate for my child?

Communicate regularly

Childcare providers may have limited experience caring for and teaching young children with delays or disabilities. You can share information about your child, including their strengths, preferences, needs, and medical information. This information may help professionals include your child in everyday learning activities. You can also …

  • Ask childcare providers questions about the care your child receives.
  • Ask professionals to share details, verbally or in writing, about your child’s participation in learning activities and routines.
  • Ask your childcare program about their procedures for collaborating with EI professionals. This may involve EI professionals and childcare providers working together to determine strategies to promote your child’s participation and learning. You, along with EI professionals and childcare providers, may decide that it is best for EI services to occur at childcare. This requires ongoing collaboration.

Review inclusion policies and practices

It is important that young children with delays/disabilities be included with their peers in childcare settings. You can …

  • Request and review the program’s inclusion policies and practices.
  • Observe the inclusive practices and materials in the classroom/childcare setting. You may notice books, images, and language to describe children with disabilities when making decisions about which childcare setting is best for their children. You may want to look for other children with delays or disabilities at the childcare setting and observe how they are included with their peers.

Talk with other families

Check with other families who have children with delays or disabilities about their childcare experiences, including their ideas for selecting centers and collaborating with childcare providers.

Learn about Section 504 and the ADA

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect individuals with disabilities against discrimination in private and public settings, including childcare. Families can learn more about childcare and the ADA from the U.S. Dept. of Justice and from the Pacer Center.

Publication date: 2022