ChildLinks Issue 3: Children with Additional Needs in Early Years Services

Barnardos. (2012). ChildLinks Issue 3: Children with Additional Needs in Early Years Services.
This edition of ChildLinks focuses on exploring the theme of how early childhood care and education (ECCE) provides for children with additional needs1. Children with disabilities do at least as well, developmentally, in good quality inclusive early education and care settings, with supports, as they do in segregated specialist settings. They make more gains in terms of social and behavioural outcomes. That was the conclusion of a briefing paper, recently published by the National Disability Authority (NDA), which reviewed research evidence and international practice in relation to children with disabilities in mainstream pre-schools. Another finding was that children without disabilities do no worse in inclusive settings and, not surprisingly, they score higher on tests relating to acceptance of people with disabilities. As the Director of the NDA Siobhan Barron concludes in her article, inclusion of pre-school children with disabilities will require a focus on quality in ECCE provision, a policy of inclusive practice in mainstream ECCE settings and disability support services supporting mainstream ECCE settings to support and include children in these settings. What infrastructure and what extra resources are necessary to ensure that children with additional needs do well? The other articles in ChildLinks explore some of the key issues including co-ordination and transition arrangements, strategies which work for children who have special needs, and identification and dissemination of best practice. According to Early Childhood Ireland, 71% of ECCE providers have at least one child with additional needs in their service. Early Childhood Ireland highlight the challenges involved in providing a quality service for children with additional needs including the increase in the adult: child ratios in 2012, inadequate specialist supports including assessment and the lack of funding for accredited training or continuing professional development specific to this area of work. It would appear that notwithstanding the encouraging research findings and the commitment by many in the ECCE and disability sectors, Ireland has a long way to go to achieve quality, inclusive ECCE provision which achieves positive outcomes for children with additional needs.