When choosing a new child care provider or arranging formal child care for the first time, it's common for parents to feel anxious and worried about whether they're making the right choice, and this can be especially true for parents of neurodivergent children. Change can be particularly difficult for neurodivergent children, and parents can worry about whether their child will be understood and supported during their time in child care. Of course, it's wise to choose a provider who has experience caring for neurodivergent children and who takes a child-centred approach, but that doesn't guarantee your family will have a positive child care experience. Here are some tips for improving your chance of success when settling your neurodivergent child into child care:
Preparation Is Key
As with any major change, preparing your child as much as you can for what's to come can help lessen their anxiety. Visit your chosen child care providers several times in the lead-up to your child's start date and ask your provider to have some things on-hand that will make your child feel comfortable, such as their favourite snack or books they love. Ensure your child care provider has a quiet space available that your child can access at any time, and make suggestions about how to make that space more functional for your child. Roleplay can also be a great way to prepare your child for a big change. Consider roleplaying drop-off, pick-up and any major changes to their daily routine, such as snack time, circle time and asking for anything they may need from the person caring for them.
When setting up child care for your child, don't be hesitant when it comes to having your child's needs met. Formal child care may be as new to you as it is to your child, but don't be tempted to feel like you're overstepping the mark when it comes to discussing your child's care with the child care provider. They will likely be glad to have your child's specific needs laid out clearly for them, so be direct in your communication with them and get specific about what tends to work well for your child and what is likely to cause them distress. You should expect to have a written care plan, and you should take an active role in formulating that care plan alongside your provider.
Review What Is And Isn't Working
It can take several weeks for any child to settle into new child care, but it's a good idea to get as involved as possible in your child's settling-in period. Have regular reviews with your chosen provider to determine what's working well and what needs to change quickly to ensure your child develops an overall positive view of their time in child care. Lots of small positive experiences can reduce anxiety, avoidant behaviour and meltdowns, and as you know your child best, you're the person best placed to assess how things are going.
When selecting child care for your neurodivergent child, don't be afraid to ask as many questions are you need to put your mind at ease that you're making the right choice. A good child care provider will be happy to work with you to ensure your child thrives.
For more information, visit a local child care centre.