Physical Disabilities and Child Care

Blue lightweight wheelchair

Child care providers can play a valuable role in supporting the healthy development and learning of children with physical disabilities. Young children learn about the world by interacting with their environment. Children with a physical disability may have more challenges in interacting with the world and discovering new things.

A physical disability is anything that limits the physical function of the child’s body. Physical disabilities can include challenges with large motor skills like walking, or small motor skills like holding objects and using scissors. A child may also have a medical disability that limits her ability to be physically active, such as a heart or breathing issue. Physical disabilities may be present from birth, or may develop at any point during a person’s lifetime.

Some children may come to child care with their physical disability already diagnosed. Other physical disabilities may become more obvious as the child grows and attempts to do new things.

Child care providers may be the first ones to recognize signs of a physical disability in a young child, and should share those concerns with the child’s parents. If you notice that a child in your care seems to be struggling with motor skills, share your concerns with the parents. Take a look at the article Tips for Child Care Providers to Communicate Concerns about Children’s Development with Parents for suggestions on how to approach parents with your concerns about their child’s physical development.

The following articles provide specific information on physical disabilities and ways child care providers can adapt the child care program to support children with a physical disability.

For more information on supporting children with special needs in a child care program, check out the eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care section on Child Care for Children with Special Needs.