While all young children do not develop at the same pace, there can be times when as a family member, you wonder if your child is developing the way they should be – you may notice other children who are the same age are sitting up… talking… walking or doing other things your child isn’t. Why isn’t my child doing those things yet? Should I be concerned?
Every child progresses and develops skills at different rates. It could be that your child is progressing a little faster in some areas of development or more slowly in other areas than children of a similar age. Children may have a slight developmental delay and sometimes they may have a significant delay or perhaps a disability. If your child has delays in development or a disability, it may impact many things, including your choice of child care. But also know, if your child has delays or a disability, there is a strong support system in place for your child and you.
What to Do If You Are Concerned About Your Child
If you are concerned about your child’s development, the first step is to talk about your concerns with your health care provider. Explain what you have seen (or not seen) in as much detail as you can. Your health care provider knows your child and the average development of other children in the same age range, which will help to inform you of average expectations. When there is a large gap in learning, your health care provider will refer you to resources.
A potential next step is to contact the Maryland Infants and Toddlers Program (MITP) (link is external), which has many local offices throughout the state (link is external). When you call MITP, clearly explain the concerns you have about your child. You can ask to have your child evaluated – referred to as an assessment -- to determine whether your child has a developmental delay or disability. This assessment is free, will not hurt your child at all, is conducted while you are there, and can provide valuable information about your child’s developmental progress, requirements, and the potential supports needed.
If the assessment shows that your child has a significant developmental delay or disability, he or she may be eligible for early intervention services (link is external). Early intervention services can promote your child’s development and readiness for school. It is important for young children who need these services to get them as early as possible. So much of a child’s intellectual growth and social/emotional development happens in the years prior to school entry – seeking and receiving early intervention services can help children reach their full potential and reduce the level of services needed when they enter school.
If Your Child Has a Disability - Specialized Child Care
Above and beyond early intervention services, you may also want to arrange child care for your child. Federal law requires that all child care programs make reasonable accommodations for children with disabilities. Unless doing so would be excessively difficult or expensive or would change the nature of the program, every child care program is required to admit and serve children with disabilities in a way that meets their individual needs and capabilities.
Your job -- as a family member -- is to find the very best match you can when it comes to child care for your child. This is true, regardless of whether or not your child has a disability. In either case, some child care programs are simply going to be a better match for your child than others. Registered family child care homes provide a small group setting in a family home environment while a child care center is typically groups of children of the same age. You should determine the best type of setting for your child when considering the type of care – do they do better in small groups? large groups? with children of the same age? or are they more comfortable with a variety of ages?
The Maryland Family Network’s LOCATE: Child Care (link is external) and Maryland EXCELS (link is external) offer a range of online information about finding child care for children, including those with disabilities. However, your best option is to make direct contact with one of the LOCATE: Child Care program counselors for children with special needs (at either 800-999-0120 or firstname.lastname@example.org. When you do so, the LOCATE: Child Care counselor will discuss:
Your child’s special need or disability
Any services or accommodations needed while in child care
Location, cost and other factors
Refering you to child care programs with special needs experience and/or that can work with your child’s particular needs
How to find the best child care for your family
Child CareLOCATE: Child Care’s personalized approach will help you find child care that will be best for you and your child. And it will help your child get off to a great start in life.
The information on Specialized Child Care Services comes from Maryland State Department of Education's Department of Early Childhood Development.