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MN Experts Offer Advice on Child Care for Kids with Disabilities

February 13, 2012

ST. PAUL - Finding the perfect child care provider can be tough for any parent, but if your child is disabled or has special needs, it can be even more difficult. Karen Fogolin, associate director of the Minnesota Child Care Resource and Referral Network, advises focusing on the place and the program. When it comes to the people working there, she says to look for those with a philosophy of inclusion.

"You want someone who is very understanding and accepting and really celebrates differences and is willing to make certain accommodations to the program and to the environment."

Fogolin says you also want to seek a provider who recognizes that children are all more alike than different and all just want to fit in and have fun.

"Children with special needs must have a good sense of self worth. They need to see themselves as part of the group. So, look for what the provider is doing to facilitate friendships and make sure that everyone is included in the various activities."

Once you have found the provider who is the right fit for you and your family, the key to making sure things continue to go smoothly is communication, experts say.

Cindy Croft, director of the Center for Inclusive Child Care at Concordia University, says part of that should be regular progress reports from the provider.

"Parents need to keep up on where their child is in their development, mental milestones and tracking where they are with their peers. Those kinds of things are really important."

Parents also need to keep the channels of communication open, which Croft says is not just one of the challenges, but also one of the triumphs.

"If you look at any child, they may have needs, but they also have things that they really like to do or they're really strong in, so it's really important to let a provider know 'what a great kid this kid is.'"

More information is available at http://www.mnchildcare.org/.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN