If you’re a human, you’ll feel the need to belong to a tribe. We build relationships with others in the pursuit of being loved and listened to. But what happens when you are a little human who needs some extra help to fit in and keep up with your peers?
Bayswater Child Care Association (BCCA) is proudly an inclusive childcare service. Our philosophy is to foster a culture that embraces the needs of each individual child, every family’s unique differences and the diversity of our community. We recognise that for a variety of reasons, some children present with additional needs that mean they may struggle to meet typical childhood learning outcomes. Often these children will require extra support to participate in the learning program activities, with socialising with others or with everyday activities like dressing or eating.
While there is no national definition of ‘additional needs’, some risk factors include;
- Children with serious medical conditions;
- Children with disability including those undergoing assessment for disability;
- Children from disadvantaged families;
- Children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds;
- Children from a refugee or humanitarian background;
- Children presenting with language and speech delays;
- Children presenting with disruptive behaviour.
The following process is what typically happens when a parent or an educator notices a child is not meeting the expected developmental milestones. The parent and educator will have a conversation, comparing notes about what they have both observed. The educator can provide the parent with a list of milestones with the unobserved behaviour highlighted. They will advise the parent of what support can be provided in the learning environment and can also provide a list of useful resources and support services. The next step for the family is usually to see a paediatrician or health professional who can assess the child.
BCCA staff will assist the family in making an application for an inclusion support grant. When an application has been assessed and approved, the centre is able to resource an additional educator into the class. The additional educator’s role is to support the learning environment, and just like the other educators, they are there for all children. One of the educators in the room will initially spend more time with the child with additional needs to help this child in building a trust bond with the educator.
In the class environment, a philosophy of kindness and empathy towards others is already taught to the children. ‘Help your friend if you see they need it.’ ‘Is knocking over someone’s block tower a kind thing to do? How about next time you ask them first’. Having a child with additional needs in a class provides teaching opportunities around demonstrating respect, empathy and patience. Children learn that everyone is different from them in some way, and tolerance of those differences is fostered. The educators often observe that children will become little teachers themselves, and they begin to offer encouragement or demonstrate to the supported child how to do things when they see them trying. The educators say that a real highlight for them is when a previously non-verbal child says someone’s name, then the whole room will cheer and celebrate the win.
The educators also like how, with the regular check-ins and exchanges of information on the child’s progress, they get to know the family well. They love it when a family or specialist communicates with them what a child is working on in therapy, then they can focus on the same lessons, and the repetition really helps a child to make gains. When asked what they like most about inclusion support work, the staff all agree that it’s worth it for ‘The smile’ that you see when a supported child finally masters something.
In summary, all children need to belong… some will need inclusion support. Thank you to all the wonderful staff at BCCA centres who provide this support to our kids. Special thank you to the team at Salisbury Childcare Centre, mentioned below, who contributed to this article.
Sharna Lockyer- Educational Leader & Early Childhood Teacher
Fabio Santos Poppe- Diploma of Childcare Educator
Maria Carroll- Cert III Childcare Educator & Primary School Teacher