An educator’s personal attitudes have a real impact on children, including children with disabilities. Always be caring, understanding and think of things from the child’s perspective.
Be aware of how you speak with the parents of a child with a disability, as well as with the child. Words can reinforce negative stereotypes and limit expectations. Some people prefer a person-first approach and say ‘child with a disability’ instead of a ‘disabled child’. This puts the focus on the person and not on their disability. Others may prefer identity-first language, such as saying an ‘autistic child’ instead of a ‘child with autism’. Identity-first language can help individuals “claim” their disabilities with pride. Ask each child and family what they prefer and use their language.
Get to know the child
Get to know each child as an individual with their own strengths and interests. Learning more about what a child likes and dislikes can provide starting points to engage them in the program. For example, educators can design experiences in which a child’s favourite colours, characters, or animals are included. Using a child’s interests can motivate them, help them learn new things in a familiar context, and connect them with other children.
Develop consistent routines to support daily wellbeing
Use predictable routines throughout the day. Using visual timetables, stories about social situations, adult-led learning, as well as guided play and learning, will benefit all children, especially those who get worried or anxious or need support with sudden change.
Use each child’s unique strengths and abilities
All children have unique strengths and abilities. Create opportunities for the child to use these to help them experience confidence and success in their development and learning.
For example, a child might be very good at building but not show interest in drawing. Allow the child to build a ‘zoo’ or building they like and help them draw the ‘animals’ or characters that go in it. Asking a child to teach a skill to other children can also reinforce their strengths and boost their self-esteem.
Consider the child's learning style
Get to know how each child learns best. Observe whether a child is most engaged during visual, verbal, musical, hands on/kinaesthetic, social, solitary, active, or problem-solving/logical experiences. Designing experiences that cater to their learning style can help engage them, motivate them, and help them learn.
Have the same expectations
Have high expectations for all children. Tailor the program to each child’s developmental challenges as well as strengths and abilities, so that they are challenged yet able to complete the activity.
Support children’s participation in the program
For example, if everyone is expected to pack up at the end of the day, a child with a disability should also help. If needed, give them more time or a task that matches their abilities and strengths.
Use evidence-based strategies
Use evidence-based strategies, such as those found on AllPlay Learn, when making reasonable adjustments to support the inclusion of a child in an early childhood education and care setting. Evidence-based strategies have been tested in early childhood education and care settings or other relevant settings, and are proven to lead to effective change or improvements for children with disabilities or developmental challenges.