Child care providers may be the first to notice developmental or behavioral concerns with a child. Providers have a unique opportunity to observe how children behave, adapt and learn in a group setting and when away from a parent. It is appropriate and important for the child that providers talk with parents about developmental or behavioral concerns.
It can be difficult to think about approaching parents with a concern about their child. Parents may react in different ways. Some parents might feel relief and be grateful for the chance to share and problem-solve for their child. A few parents might be insulted or angry and fear for their child's safety and health. Talking with parents about their child's special needs is an opportunity for providers to ease a parent's loneliness, provide hope, and advocate for the parent and child.
The following techniques can help in bringing up a sensitive issue:
- Jot down a written record of the child's behavior that you have questions or concerns about.
- This could include a child who
- Is unusually aggressive or withdrawn
- Has difficulties with coordination or skill development
- Has separation anxiety or difficulty with social interaction
- Has learning issues such as a poor attention span or problems following directions
- Think ahead of time what you want to say and what your needs are, and what the parent and child's needs might be.
- Rehearse with fellow care providers or teachers what you plan to say to a parent.
- When you schedule a time to talk with a parent, let them know the topic you would like to discuss.
- When you meet with a parent, be specific, describe what you see, give examples.
- Avoid jumping to conclusions about the child. (For example, "Johnny's ADD!" or "She needs medication!")
- Ask the parent questions so you can understand his/her perception of a situation. Listen closely with an open mind to a parent's explanations.
- Give the parent contact information about reliable programs, services or financial resources you know about for children with special needs.
Ask parents how much information can be shared with other parents in the program. Some parents may want to speak to other families on their own. This can be done informally at pick-up and drop-off times. Others may prefer to set up a formal time to meet with other parents. Many parents visit their child's classroom to talk with the children about their child's special needs, and to answer the other children's questions.
Some parents may worry about having a child with special needs in their child’s program. They may be concerned that he will take too much attention away from the other children. It is important to provide them with information that will ease their fears. Reassure them that you are committed to providing quality care for all of the children. Talk about their specific concerns to the best of your ability.
Parents of a special needs child may not feel comfortable sharing any information with other parents. Their right to privacy must be respected. You may find that as relationships develop among the caregivers, children and families, it becomes easier for them to open up to the other parents in the program.