Building Portfolios with Children with Special Needs

Two Women Discussing a Child's Portfolio

Every child is unique. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams. Parents and child care providers alike should strive to get to know each child. Through everyday interactions, such as talking, reading, and playing, a child care provider develops a rapport with the child that provides a glimpse as to who they are. This information is important and should be documented. 

Why Are Portfolios Useful?

Portfolios are a great way to capture information about each child as well as provide an easy way to document the information. For children with special needs, portfolios can be a helpful tool to document milestones, acknowledge progress, and provide the team creating the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) with more information to help support that child’s learning. For more information on the IEP and IFSP, see What Do Child Care Providers Need to Know About IEPs and IFSPs?

What to Include in a Portfolio

There is no right or wrong way to create a portfolio. Child care providers can help document a child’s development by:

  • taking pictures in the classroom (with permission from families)
  • making brief notes about specific accomplishments
  • collecting samples of artwork and writing
  • writing down things each child says.

Organizing the materials into a binder by developmental domain (e.g., physical, language, cognitive, social) allows both teachers and parents to see developmental milestones throughout the school year and beyond.

Tools for Creating Portfolios

There are many tools available to help child care providers create portfolios to document the growth of all children, including children with special needs. The Institute on Human Development and Disability at the University of Georgia has developed the Take a Look at Me™ portfolio, a process in which family members help their child build a portfolio to identify their unique interests, preferences, and play skills. The portfolio also helps child care providers feel comfortable and confident in helping the child with a disability to be a part of family, school, and community life. The portfolio process promotes building supports based on the hopes and dreams of the family for their child.

For More Information

To learn more about supporting children with special needs in child care, check out the eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care section on Child Care for Children with Special Needs. The section includes articles on inclusive child care, preparing to enroll a child with special needs, adapting the child care environment, communicating concerns with parents, and many other topics.