You are visiting Mason at his child care center for the first time today. When you arrive, you find the classroom to be super busy, with eight toddlers and two adults. After introducing yourself to the lead teacher and the assistant, you explain how EI visits usually work and ask how you can help. You try to join the art activity and talk with the teacher more, but the teacher answers in short sentences as if it’s hard for her to concentrate on the children and on your questions. Eventually, the teacher mentions that the classroom next door is empty and asks you if you’d like to go work with Mason in there.
What do you do?
Strategies for Working with the Child Care Provider & Child IN the Classroom
So what do you do when you walk in the classroom and are told to walk right out? Asking you to pull the child out into another room could indicate several things about what the child care provider may be thinking. Here are some strategies for dealing with the possibilities:
Possibility #1 – She doesn’t understand the purpose of your visit.
The child care provider may think that you are there to provide therapy to Mason. She may not want to get in the way or have the other children distract you or him. Take the time to reiterate your roll as a support to her. Tell her that you are there to work together with her and her assistant to find ways to encourage Mason’s development during the activities that they do everyday. Let her know that you’d like to explore what they’ve already tried and what they’d like to do with Mason. Explain that if you pull Mason out of the classroom for therapy for one hour a week, then he’s not really getting much intervention. However, if you work with her and she’s able to implement intervention strategies throughout the week, he’ll get much more intervention, which is ultimately the goal of your visit. Don’t forget to ask how this sounds to her, if it is “doable.” What she thinks really matters.
Possibility #2 – She doesn’t know what to do with you.
This is just as likely in a child care center as it is in a home. Caregivers often don’t know their role in the collaborative partnership. Describe how you can work together. Ask her if she is okay with the first few visits focusing on getting to know her classroom and how Mason behaves there. Let her know that you will spend a lot of time talking with her and helping her and her assistant try out strategies with Mason during the activities in the classroom. You’ll help her come up with ideas, try them out, then reflect on them and problem-solve so she feels confident using them when you’re not there.
Possibility #3 – She doesn’t think there is any real reason for you to be there.
Sometimes, child care providers disagree with families about the child’s development. Maybe she thinks Mason will talk when he’s ready. Maybe he talks more at school than he does at home. Before you jump into strategies, find out her thoughts on his development. Tap into her expertise. If she doesn’t think he needs intervention, then ask how his communication (or motor development, or social skills, etc.) compares to other children in the room. Ask about what goes well for Mason and what challenges him – and what challenges her during the day with Mason. Maybe she doesn’t think Mason needs to talk yet, but the fact that he drops into a tantrum ten times a day is a big challenge. Find out about her day and determine how you can help – same as you would with a parent. After that, if you still don’t have her “buy in,” talk to the service coordinator and the parent about what to do next.
Possibility #4 – This is just not a good time for your visit.
It could be as simple as art time is usually chaos with eight toddlers so is not a great time for a visitor. Ask the question. Maybe another time of day would be better. Outside play time is often a great time to see the child move about, interact with others, and still be able to snag the teacher’s attention. If she needs you to come at a certain time of day and you don’t have that available in your schedule, you may need to contact the service coordinator to discuss changing providers. Working in child care requires a great deal of flexibility – even being flexible enough to realize that you may not be the best match for the situation, and that’s okay too.
Hopefully, after you’ve explored the possibilities with the teacher and helped her understand why you are there, you’ll all be on the same page and ready to work together. The collaboration between you and the child care staff is what will keep you IN the classroom!
What are your best strategies for dealing with these possibilities? What have you done when asked to pull the child out of the child care classroom?
Share your experiences and ideas in the comments below!