Including Infants and Toddlers with Identified or Suspected Disabilities or Other Special Needs in Child Care Settings

Child care provider playing with children.

View the video example, Alou
Access the Video Clip Series

Reflect on Alou’s experience and the value of inclusive care for infants and toddlers.

  • What did you observe in the interactions between the teacher and Alou?
  • What did you observe during his therapy session?
  • What are some ways the teacher responds to his needs?
  • After watching this video, what comes to mind for you about including children with special needs?
  • Have you had an experience that relates in some way to the interactions between this teacher and Alou? If so, what was the experience and how does it relate?

Please note that all programs filmed for this project are in full compliance with licensing regulations at the time of filming. In each video, the required adult-to-child ratio is met and all children are supervised, even if other adults are not visible on the screen.

Thoughtfully including young children with disabilities or other special needs in child care settings is important. This is especially true if you provide technical assistance (TA) or professional development (PD) to caregivers of infants and toddlers. Since many disabilities and special needs are diagnosed in the first 3 years of life, those who provide care to infants and toddlers are likely to be involved with families during early stages of awareness, evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. Infant and toddler teachers may be the first to notice a concern.

TA and PD providers can help infant and toddler caregivers build the skills, knowledge, and ability to provide valuable insight and be supportive partners as they engage with children, families, and other professionals in parts of the identification and treatment process, including, for example, an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP)[1] or individualized curriculum plan.

This chapter of the Infant/Toddler Resource Guide explores what is involved in providing inclusive care to infants and toddlers and ways TA and PD providers can support child care professionals as they care for infants and toddlers with disabilities.

We invite you to view this information as a source of inspiration, guidance, and support for practical and meaningful ideas. This chapter specifically addresses including all infants and toddlers by nurturing a sense of belonging and supporting all children’s developmental potential. A key task of a caregiver is to get to know each individual child and determine how to create an authentic sense of belonging.


[1] An Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) is a plan for special services for children from birth to 3 years of age with developmental delays. IFSPs are mandated by Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). For more information visit https://sites.ed.gov/idea/.