As a parent and/or caregiver, you want your child to develop and flourish. You are the expert on your child, as you know their likes and dislikes. However, sometimes caregivers aren’t sure when children’s behaviour or development is a cause for concern.
You may notice that your child does not appear to be developing typically. If you’re unsure what is typical or where to start, you can use developmental screening tools such as the Communication Checklists, Hearing Checklists, and the Nipissing District Developmental Screen to give you a benchmark idea of how your child is progressing. You can find more information on how you can support the child’s health – like an 18-month visit to the doctor and additional resources on the City of Toronto’s Healthy Parenting section.
If your child is enrolled in a licensed child care centre, a designated special needs resource consultant from the City of Toronto can observe, document, and work together with yourself, the Early Childhood Educators (ECEs), and specialists in order to put proper modifications in place for your child‘s behavioural, physical, and social success. They work to create an Individual Support Plan (ISP), later known as an Individual Education Plan (IEP) when the child enters the school system.
A resource consultant’s role is to adapt teaching strategies and collaborate with parents, caregivers, and ECEs with their knowledge of child development. With your consent, they can assess needs, strengths, progress, and adapt the learning environment to better prepare them for their future. For example, if your child is having difficulty with language and verbal communication, the resource consultant may provide a referral to a speech and language pathologist, community supports to encourage verbal development, as well as provide new suggestions to home and child care routines to encourage verbal and non-verbal communication.
Here is an example of modifications that may be used in an Early Learning Individual Support Plan based on different needs and behaviours.
Visual cue cards are often used for children struggling with verbal communication, or children with behavioural concerns. They can support smoother transitions for children:
Depending on your child’s need, the modified learning strategies to support their development can be simple or more extensive. If the child is struggling with communication skills, the resource consultant may suggest the following: speak slowly, make one-step instructions, use hand gestures and modelling, visual cues, and if necessary, they may refer you to a speech and language pathologist. You can also look into specialized child care and early learning programs with additional supports and resources on site and in the community. If you are wondering what your region offers, as a starting point, we’ve listed potential contacts in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) for children enrolled in licensed child care and/or their homes below:
- City of Toronto Services for Children with Special Needs
- Durham Region: Children with Special Concerns and Needs
- Peel Region Support, Programs, and Services
- York Region Special Needs Services
Additional specialized nursery schools in the City of Toronto include:
- Centennial Infant and Child Centre
- Holland Bloorview – Play and Learn
- Holland Bloorview – Scarborough
- Silver Creek Centre for Early Learning & Development
- Community Living Toronto
We’ve only given you an overview, but if you are interested in finding out what other programs are available, including those outside of the GTA, feel free to visit the Government of Ontario website for more options.
It’s important to remember that each child learns differently and that having adjusted needs does not mean that they cannot succeed in the future. Being inclusive in our approach to education is important to ensure that all children are learning and growing in their own way. However, parenting a child with diverse needs can be strenuous, so you may want to visit EarlyON centres and other community resources to find support in your parenthood journey.
If you have further questions, or if you’re not sure where to start, our office would be happy to help. Stay tuned for Part Two of Individual Education Plans (IEPs) in the September newsletter, where we explore how to put an IEP into place for children in the school system to support their healthy development.