"Soap box time, but if small people know that children like Aimee can attend nursery and school with them maybe their reactions will continue to be warm and we will have less restricting attitudes in our adults!" Parent of a three-year-old Scope and HemiHelp have worked in partnership to produce this information to provide early years workers with practical guidance to better support the inclusion of disabled children. It will be useful for children with a range of needs but clearly has an emphasis on cerebral palsy and hemiplegia. This guidance is particularly aimed at nurseries, but those working in playgroups, parent and toddler groups, creches, opportunity groups and at home may also find it useful. The word "nursery" has been used as shorthand to describe this range of early years settings. Early years workers may think they need to know about a wide range of conditions, and this may hold them back in feeling able to welcome and include all children, when in fact, including disabled children is more of a case of extending ordinary good practice and recognising that all children have interests, ideas and aptitudes whilst supporting early years workers working with the more complex impairments. In particular it is hoped that using this information will contribute to the process whereby "the attitudes and behaviour of practitioners, children and parents demonstrate how unremarkable it is that disabled children are part of a wide cross-section of the local community using the service". (All of us - inclusion checklist for settings, KIDSactive).
A note about protecting children
Throughout the topics covered in this series it is important that the child understands the meaning of right and wrong, yes and no. Not only is this vital for child protection, it will not help a child to become part of his or her community now or in the future if this message is denied to them. Whatever their impairment, they need to understand what behaviour is acceptable and what is not. Do not make an exception because of the child's ability; this helps no one, least of all them. Mencap
The successful inclusive nursery
In a successful inclusive nursery there is a positive attitude towards disabled children where staff support and encourage children to reach their potential. In order to achieve this staff need to:
- Understand the needs of children with cerebral palsy, both in terms of the condition and how it might affect a child's learning and development.
- Ensure that the environment and activities are accessible for children with cerebral palsy.
- Know where to go for further information and advice.
- Have a proactive, planned approach to inclusion generally rather than reacting to individual referrals.
- Take into account the needs of disabled children when making changes to the environment or buying equipment or furniture.
- Review policies and practices to ensure that they do not discriminate against disabled children.
- Focus on the free aspects of childhood, which can be easily overlooked amongst all the special treatment that a disabled child might receive.
- Address the mistaken belief that all children with cerebral palsy need one-to-one support.
- Look at each child as an individual and not just a 'batch of needs'.