Archived — Early Learning and Equality for All Children

Lucille Gilliland

Lucille Gilliland
Southwest Daycare and Learning Centre, Inc.
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan 
Type of setting: Childcare and Early Learning Centre for 18 months to 12 year

I am writing on a topic that is truly close to my heart: providing early learning and child care to children with special rights (special needs) and who are medically fragile. I've always been fascinated with children's development, especially how they think and learn. I have discovered that seeing life through a child's eyes is very fascinating and fun. Working in an early learning program gives me daily contact with some of the most interesting people on earth; our children.

To me, children are fascinating, wise, funny and extremely honest. Those qualities make my life's work very engaging, rewarding and challenging. Together with children, their families, and other early childhood educators we have been able to share and support one another in different ways to provide care for our children with special rights and who are medically fragile. This specialized care and early learning is often forgotten about in program planning and not provided due to fear of insufficient training or financial support coming into the early childhood education programs. We need to teach our communities about our children so that they can know when to get involved. It takes a village to raise a child.

Throughout my experience in working with children with special rights I have found that interaction with children without special needs can be mutually beneficial. For parents of children with complex medical needs, the challenge of finding quality child care and early learning programs can seem overwhelming. They don't want to limit their children to only being able to interact with children who have disabilities, but would still like to have their children cared for in an all-inclusive early learning environment. Children with disabilities, as well as those who are able-bodied, can enjoy learning and exploring alongside one another. It is important that an early childhood educator have opportunities in specialized training to assist with structuring a learning environment and facilitating social situations that maximize the physical and social inclusion. The programs that are developed for children with special needs should be tailored to each individual and closely monitored as the child grows, learns and gains new skills. This ensures that they are meeting the child's developmental needs and ever changing goals. Every child, regardless of ability, participates in all daily activities of the early learning environment.

As an early childhood educator, I would like to encourage all other early childhood educators to be strong advocates for the child care and early learning profession and find creative ways to promote inclusion. Parents should be supported in advocating for their medically fragile children and we can guide them through a network of resources to community organizations, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, physical therapists, medical social workers, early childhood psychologists and other professionals. I've even had these professionals or representatives from organizations come to visit the children at the centre, ensuring they receive necessary help in a timely and consistent manner. It is important to assist families by integrating family support services in ways that members of the community can also become educational partners. All children are our future regardless of their abilities and it is our responsibility to prepare them for it. I believe that Canada's natural resources are our children.

Date modified: