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Study: Child care providers often lack training, resources to serve children with disabilities

by Sharita Forrest / Jul 10, 2018

College of Education alumna Jenna Weglarz-Ward

Alumna Jenna Weglarz-Ward, Ed.M. ’03 Spec.Ed., Ph.D. ’16 Spec.Ed., found in a recent study that child care providers in Illinois often lack the staffing, resources, and accessible buildings needed to serve young children with disabilities.

According to the research, nearly 70 percent of the more than 991 child care professionals who completed an online survey said they have difficulties with caring for infants and toddlers.

“We need to look at child care as being part of the education system so that we’re including children with disabilities in similar ways,” said Weglarz-Ward, who conducted two surveys to attain data for the study while she was a doctoral student in the Department of Special Education. “We need to consider how we can include child care providers in planning these children’s education so there’s continuity and coordination.”

Despite the accessibility requirements for public buildings that were imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act, people who responded to the surveys reported that a significant number of child care programs are not designed to accommodate children with disabilities—buildings are not accessible, rooms may be too small to accommodate wheelchairs, and facilities often lack the special equipment, helpful technologies, furniture, and materials these children need.

Likewise, high student-to-caregiver ratios often leave child care providers with little time to address the individual needs of children with disabilities and to collaborate with early intervention providers, Weglarz-Ward said.

About 57 percent of the child care professionals who responded to the survey worked in child care centers, while 27 percent cared for children in family homes and 11 percent worked for the Head Start program.

Weglarz-Ward, a professor of educational and clinical studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, co-wrote the study with Professor Rosa Milagros Santos of the Department of Special Education and Jennifer Timmer, who was a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Psychology when the research was being conducted.

Read more about the study, which was published in the Early Childhood Education Journal.