Why Inclusive Childcare is the Best Experience

By: Vickie Robinson, Developmental Therapist & Kelly Lopresti

lily garden

We truly feel an inclusive childcare environment is a wonderful experience for all Involved! With the recent 30th Anniversary of the Lily Garden Child Development Center here at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, we wanted to discuss all the benefits of an inclusive child care program and outline some ways to support children with special needs in your classroom. Children with special needs and typically developing peers benefit from an inclusive environment as well as teachers and family members.

12 Benefits of Inclusion for Students with Special Needs

  • Friendships with same aged peers
  • Increased social initiations, relationships, friendships and networks
  • Peer role models for social, academic and behavior skills
  • Increased achievement of therapy and Individual Family Service Plan/Individualized Education Program goals (IFSP/IEP)
  • Greater access to general curriculum
  • Enhanced skill acquisition and generalization
  • Higher expectations
  • Increased staff, parent and therapist collaboration
  • Increased parent and teacher participation
  • Families are more integrated into community
  • Affords a sense of belonging
  • Provides a stimulating environment for growth

12 Benefits of Inclusion for Typically Developing Students

  • Meaningful friendships are cultivated
  • Increased understanding and acceptance of diversity
  • Develops respect for others with diverse characteristics
  • Increases abilities to help others
  • Prepares all students for adult life in an inclusive society
  • Opportunities to master activities by practicing and teaching others
  • Greater academic outcomes
  • Develops capacity for empathy
  • All student’s needs are better met, greater resources for everyone
  • Develops sensitivity toward others’ limitations
  • Develops feelings of empowerment and the ability to make a difference
  • Increases abilities to help others

In the California Department of Education’s Inclusion Works! Informational Booklet,inclusion booklet pic they outline common modifications, adaptions and supports for an inclusive environment.

Strategies include:

  1. Providing environmental supports:
    • Using pictures or objects to signal next activities
    • Making physical boundaries to decrease distraction
    • Engineer classroom to support children of all abilities
      • Lower hooks, make paths for children in wheel chairs
  1. Adapt materials. Examples include:
    • Adding knobs to wooden puzzlesinclusion
    • Offer a variety of scissor, pen, marker, crayon options
    • Use a tilt board or easel for easier viewing
  2. Activity Simplification
    • Simplify complicated tasks by breaking them into smaller parts. For example, give child materials for a task one piece at a time.
  3. Be Aware of Child Preferences
    • Use motivating subjects, toys and games to promote learning, participation and interaction
  4. Use of Special Equipment
    • Use adaptive devices to maximize and facilitate participation. Making sure child care staff are trained by parents and therapists to properly use adaptive or medical equipment.
    • Make sure children who need physical support are positioned optimally and are encouraged to play on the same level as peers.
  5. Adult Support
    • Make sure staff is trained and comfortable in working with all children in their classroom. Having permission to interact and learn from a child’s therapist is important. Knowing a child’s goals and beneficial supports will benefit the child.
  6. Peer Support
    • Use classmates as models to help children learn.
    • Teach children specific ways to engage and interact with a child with special needs.
  7. valentineInvisible Support- Arrange naturally occurring events to assist in inclusion.
    • Assign roles during children’s play, such as having a child with limited mobility be in charge of “pumping gas” as the children riding bikes go by.
    • Comment on children’s play in ways that encourage further interaction.

To learn more about the Lily Garden Child Development Center, our inclusive child care center here at Easterseals Dupage & Fox Valley please call Melissa at 630.261.6283.

Expectant and New Parent’s Guide to Registering for a Baby


By: Bridget Hobbs, PT, DPT

As new parents ourselves, my husband and I spent four hours on a beautiful Saturday this past summer at a popular baby store in order to register for our bundle of joy that was arriving shortly.  Even though we went in with a list of items that our new-parent friends had recommended, I have to admit, the process was overwhelming!  Between items stacked floor to ceiling and deciding on one of 20+ different kinds of car seats, we had to take a 10 minute ‘halftime’ two hours into our adventure and relax on those comfy $900 gliders. Overall, having a good idea of what is going to help your baby and what could be detrimental to your baby’s development is going to make the process a bit easier.  Here is a parent’s guide of dos and don’ts for registering for a new baby based on my experience in child development as a pediatric physical therapist:

Do: Invest in a good playpen/encompassing safety gate.  This way, you can make dinner or fold laundry with your child safely playing within your line of sight.  Your child will be able to roll, pull up, crawl and improve his gross motor abilities and not get into things such as the flowers on the coffee table or your husband’s important work files in his briefcase.
Additional bonus: if you have a dog in your house, this is a good way to keep them interacting and in the same room without the worry that your favorite four-legged friend will accidentally knock-over your two-legged child.

Don’t: Buy everything on the market that “contains” your baby.  This includes: bouncers, swings, jumpers, exersaucers, and bumbo chairs.   All of these products should be used in moderation, if at all.  When these “container” products are used excessively, babies are at risk for torticollis (tightness on one side of the neck) and plagiocephaly (flat head).  In order to avoid possible physical therapy and costly head-shaping helmets, make sure your child gets plenty of tummy time.  A good playmat or a boppy pillow can help your child enjoy tummy time.  For more information on this topic, you can reference my June blog entry: The Container Baby

Do: Get toys for your children that are old-school.  Think blocks, balls, books, musical instruments (remember your little four-key piano?), magnet letters, and shape sorters.  These types of toys are great sensory experiences, and will help your child learn the concepts of: putting in/taking out, cause-effect, hand-eye coordination and recognizing and producing different tones for speech production.
Additional bonus: your parents may have saved these toys from your childhood (as I learned recently as my Mom showed me a whole closet of bins of age-labeled toys that she pulled out the other week).  These types of toys are also easily found at garage sales for super-cheap.

Don’t: Go too techy for your baby.  I was floored to see an ipad holder that was marketed toward an infant.  As a general rule, avoid anything that has the word ‘tech’ in it as a toy for your baby.  The American Academy of Pediatrics states that television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under the age of 2, and for children and teens limited to no more then 1-2 hours per day.  Starting children on tablets and electronics too early and not in moderation can be a slippery slope that can lead to increased rates of attention-deficit disorder, obesity and risky behaviors.  For additional information on this topic, please read my previous blog: Why Reading Real Books as Opposed to E-books is Beneficial for Your Child

As I recently learned, registering for a baby can be a really fun process (honestly, who doesn’t like using the scanner-gun?) but can also be quite overwhelming.  Try not to be suckered into every high-tech piece of baby equipment out there, because chances are, you and your baby won’t need it.  Instead, remembering what you grew up with (Legos, books and play-pens, oh my!) can lead to a better reality of what will help your child develop.

For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.

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