“You are so lucky you get to stay home with him!” is what I heard all the time from people. And every time that was said to me, it hurt. I know they meant well. It’s just that they did not understand that, while I did not go back to work for 18 months after my preemie was born, too much of that time was spent stressed out at hospitals, in doctor’s offices, and with early intervention therapists. Pretty much everywhere except blissfully at home.
Nonetheless, back to work I had to go when our money ran out and our preemie was deemed healthy enough to start daycare. And daycare it had to be since an affordable nanny is hard to come by in our neck of the woods. I just hoped we could find a good daycare! Especially one that would accommodate my preemie’s global developmental delay. After what initially seemed liked a fruitless search, we did find such a daycare.
So, if you, too, are in search of a good daycare, and your preemie has a developmental delay, all you need is some time to do your research and a whole lot of patience. To assist you, here are some “Do’s” and “Don’ts” I learned from my own search:
- DO begin your search by asking parents you trust for daycare recommendations. Next, narrow that search by checking with your state’s department of family services to find out if those daycares have any violations against them. Then, start calling the ones who don’t.
- DO NOT immediately burst into tears when the daycare provider says to you that if your child is not walking yet at the age of 18-months that they will have to hire a 1:1 aide for him and that would be a hardship for them. At least wait until the call has ended and then let the tears flow. However, before you disconnect, feel free let that daycare know that there is no way you would ever trust, let alone pay, them to care for your child, when they could make such an assumption about your child before even meeting him.
- DO know your rights, and your preemie’s rights, by reading this question and answer sheet regarding child care centers and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a federal civil rights law that requires day cares and other child care providers make reasonable accommodations for children with special needs and disabilities. Also, check to see if your state has additional laws that protect your preemie’s civil rights.
- DO NOT be discouraged by the few, and there were only a few, people you speak to who sound disinterested in your child or who are clearly uninformed about the ADA. That is not someone you want caring for your child. Just move on to the next one.
- DO be encouraged by my experience. I knew I had found the right daycare center for my child when, without hesitation, the director warmly welcomed the possibility of caring for my preemie, even after I explained he wasn’t walking yet. She also was the only one who took the time to explain to me why she felt my 18-month old should start out in the “baby” room instead of the “toddler” room. She worried mostly about his safety and I agreed. *Please note that the ADA states that it is up to the parent, not the daycare, to decide if their child be placed in a classroom that is not age appropriate.* You make the decision based on what you think is best for your preemie.
For my preemie, being placed in the “baby” room meant he was chronologically the oldest, but developmentally he was far behind the other babies. Most of them were walking and talking. Within a few weeks, my preemie was babbling so much more. Within a few months, he began knee walking and pulling to stand. All of his therapists agree that the babies were motivating my toddler like no one has before!
Along with his therapists and doctors, his day care teachers have become part of his team. They are as concerned and involved in his growing and thriving as much as I am! I particularly appreciate how they work with his early intervention therapists when they visit.
My preemie has been going to daycare for almost a whole year now and my, oh, my how he loves it! He is always the first one out the door in the morning. Even if I had the option to stay home with him now, or hire a nanny, I still would choose daycare. He has benefited so much from being around other kids, and for that, we both are lucky!