Standards for child and youth development programs

2020 Edition

Early Childhood Education (CYD-ECE) 9: Caring for Children with Special Needs

The program considers additional communication, activity, and staffing needs to promote optimal inclusion and development of children with special needs.


Special needs include medical, developmental, social, emotional, and behavioral needs.

2020 Edition




Early Childhood Education facilitates appropriate child development and ensures the health and safety of children in care.
Related Standards:

Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs are required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The ADA expects CYD-ECE programs to eliminate discriminatory admissions policies and practices; individually assess whether a child can be served by the program with reasonable accommodations; and make reasonable accommodations so a child with disabilities can participate in the program. Reasonable accommodations are those that can be implemented without causing undue hardship to the program.  Examples of reasonable accommodations that can be implemented by an CYD-ECE setting include: changing policies and procedures; providing auxiliary services or aids to assist in effective communication with individuals who have speech, hearing, and visual impairments; and removing physical barriers under certain circumstances.

The program’s practices fully meet the standard, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards.
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards.
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Provide a description of services for children with special needs
  • Documentation of training and qualifications for teaching staff who are responsible for children with special needs
  • Resource and referral list for specialized services and supports
  • Interview:
    1. Program director
    2. Teaching staff
    3. Relevant personnel
    4. Parents of children with special needs
  • Review child files

Fundamental Practice

CYD-ECE 9.01

Parents of children with special needs receive assistance obtaining and coordinating specialized supports necessary to enroll and keep their child in care.


Parents may need assistance obtaining suitable transportation, managing logistics, and coordinating services with other providers such as specialized screenings, assessments, and treatments. The amount and type of assistance provided will vary based on the resources available at the program.

Literature suggests that barriers to the enrollment of children with special needs include a lack of appropriate transportation, cost, challenges in coordinating services, and a lack of teachers that possess the competencies to care for children with special needs.

CYD-ECE 9.02

A team approach is used in service planning, care provision, and transition planning.


The team should include parents, service providers, and teaching staff.

CYD-ECE 9.03

Teaching staff and administrators promote the child’s inclusion in activities with other children.


Whenever the child is attending the program, intervention services and special medical services provided on-site should be integrated, to the greatest extent possible, into the ongoing activities of the group to promote inclusion.

CYD-ECE 9.04

Teaching staff who are responsible for working with children with special needs are qualified and trained to meet the specific needs of children in their care, and consultants and other professionals are brought in when necessary.

Related Standards:


The program must seek out specialized training and support from parents, medical providers, and other specialists as needed.  Some medical services should only be provided by qualified medical practitioners.  Teaching staff and their supervisors must work with parents and consultants to clarify what activities they are not qualified to take on and seek additional support as needed.


Appropriate qualifications and training will vary given the needs of the children in care.  It can include a combination of education, training, and experience.

Studies show that the greatest barrier to providing inclusive child care is staff that lack specialized training in caring for children with special needs.  As a result, programs that employ teaching staff and supervisors with relevant education, training, and experience tend to provide a more inclusive child care group setting.