How to Find Childcare for Children With Disabilities

Boy playing at daycare

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Finding the right childcare is an important part of the parenting process.

Whether you opt for a nanny, daycare, the help of a friend or family, or some combination of them all, it's important to do your research and make sure your child will be getting the best care to suit their specific needs. You are likely already looking for caregivers that are warm, compassionate, and responsible.

However, there are some additional qualities that you may want to consider if you have a child with a disability or chronic condition. These children may have specific challenges that need to be addressed and accommodated by their caregivers. For example, a child in a wheelchair will require a caregiver who is physically able to lift them in and out of the chair. A child with a speech or language disorder may need a caregiver who knows how to operate their speaking device.

Here is what experts say you should look for when finding childcare for kids with disabilities.

What to Consider When Searching for Childcare for Disabled Kids

Caretaking may look slightly different for kids with a disability or chronic condition. You'll want to ensure you find caregivers who have worked with kids with varying needs, particularly with needs similar to the ones of your child.

"Every child is different and it's important to consider what accommodations your child will need to be as successful as possible," says Jennifer Garris, child and family mental health counselor and co-founder of Big Little Learners private practice. "Your child’s age, language skills, and physical needs are all important factors in considering child care needs."

It's essential to choose the right type of childcare as well. Will your child flourish in a daycare facility or program with other children, or in a one-on-one situation, like a nanny? Take this all into account as you search for a provider.


Most important is to ensure your child's caregiver has experience working with children who have a disability like your child's. Parents should consider what their own day-to-day looks like with their child, and ask potential caregivers how they would handle situations that typically occur, Garris says.

You can say, "For example, my child needs help with activities of daily living (ADLs). Are you comfortable assisting with toileting, bathing, etc.?" Be sure to ask about any situations that your child might encounter so you know your care provider will be prepared to assist.


Going hand-in-hand with experience is qualifications. Depending on your child's disability, you may want a caregiver to have certifications that qualify them to work with your child's needs.

"If a child has an intellectual or learning disability, it’s important for certified professionals to provide specific support," explains Sarah Tom, a special education teacher in New York City.

If you choose a daycare facility, note the ratio of total adults to children in each room. "Of those adults, it's important to find out how many certified teachers and related service providers are included," Tom says.

Each state has its own guidelines for the child-to-adult ratio, but generally, you'll want to see one caretaker for every six to 10 kids. Note that the ratio changes as kids get older.

Furthermore, parents should ask about staff training. Questions like: "What training do you provide uncertified individuals or support staff that enables them to work with my child?" or "What certifications do you require staff to have?" can give you insight into how your child will be supported, Tom says.


If choosing the daycare route, parents should consider what the facility looks like and how it's structured. "What does the space look like? Are there private areas to individually address each child’s needs (physical, emotional, academic interventions)?" Tom suggests. Keep an eye out for answers to these questions as you tour the facility or speak with a provider.

Available Supports

Another factor to consider is the support available at the facility to accommodate your child's needs. Tom suggests asking: "What programs are in place to help support my child’s individual needs? How are you going to tailor your program to meet [those] needs?"

Tom also advises that parents be cautious if all children are receiving the same support, irrespective of their disability. "No individualized plans is definitely a red flag," she explains.

Personality and Character

The most valuable characteristic of any caregiver is their commitment to caring for your child.

The individual caregiver's personality, including their demeanor, attitude, and character, is one of the most important considerations. "Your child's caregiver should be able to meet your child's basic needs but a great caregiver will go above the basic requirements and help your child be their best self," says Garris, adding that the most valuable characteristic of any caregiver is their commitment to caring for your child.

Simply put, you can teach CPR or toilet training, but you can't teach compassion. Make sure that quality comes through when interviewing caretakers for your child.

A Word From Verywell

Special considerations should be taken when finding childcare for kids with disabilities or chronic conditions. Parents must consider the best type of childcare to suit their child, be it a daycare facility or a one-on-one nanny. It's important to look for caregivers with the right kind of experience and qualifications for working with your child's needs. Most importantly, the caregiver you choose should be compassionate, loving, and committed to helping your child reach their full potential.

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  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Ratios and Group Sizes.

By May Sofi
May Sofi Brennan is a bilingual speech-language pathologist specializing in early childhood. She has extensive experience working with children ages 0-5 and their families, with a focus on coaching caregivers on ways to encourage and promote language development. She is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared on Bustle and FabFitFun.