Finding daycare for children with special needs

For parents with special-needs children, finding a suitable daycare can be exhausting and discouraging. The reality is not all places have staff trained to handle such children, or facilities to accommodate their specific physical needs. Here's some advice that could help if you're in such a situation.

Finding daycare for children with special needs

For parents of a child with disabilities, finding a conveniently located and inclusive daycare can be a challenge.

  • Although the provinces and territories typically encourage childcare providers to be inclusive, the reality is that many are not prepared in terms of special staff and facilities.
  • Some jurisdictions do have inclusion policies in place, but they are under no obligation to put them into practice.
  • One exception is Prince Edward Island, where some government-managed daycare centres are mandated to welcome children with special needs.

No special requirements

Daycares are not required to be fully accessible for wheelchairs, and no additional training is required for staff.

  • A daycare’s choice to accept children with special needs depends largely on the willingness of the caregivers, the facility’s financial situation and the supplemental resources available.

Assistance for child care

Licensed daycares that accept children with special needs may receive financial assistance from their provincial or territorial governments.

  • These subsidies, for which they must apply, allow them to hire additional staff or purchase equipment and toys to better meet the needs of children with disabilities.

Examples of the kind of grants that can be sought by daycares that welcome children with special needs are:

  • In New Brunswick, a daycare may receive a grant of approximately $3,400 per year for each child between two and five who has special needs and whose placement was recommended by the Early Childhood Initiatives Program. This program is designed to support children with special needs and their families.
  • In Manitoba, non-profit daycares and home daycares can receive financial assistance from the Childcare Inclusion Support Program.
  • In Nunavut, daycares may receive grants for children with disabilities. The amount depends on the children’s ages and where the daycare is located.

Help for parents

Even if the parents must pay the basic daycare fees, in most areas they won’t have to pay out-of-pocket expenses for additional costs incurred by the inclusion of their child with special needs.

  • In some provinces and territories, the families themselves may be eligible for a grant to help them pay for inclusive childcare.
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