Supporting Children with Additional Needs in your Preschool

In this week’s episode of the Everything Preschool Webinar, we focused on supporting children with additional needs in your preschool.

You can listen to physiotherapists and occupational therapists, but nothing compares to the voice of the child – James Molloy, author of Wednesday’s Child, a book about his own experiences as a wheelchair user in Ireland.

Resources from the Webinar

  1. Guiding Children’s Behaviour: In-depth (with a certificate) masterclass for educators here
  2. Diversity and Equality: In-depth (with a certificate) masterclass for educators here
  3. The Book, Wednesdays Child, by James Molloy and Contact Information here
  4. Hayley Rice Online Programme on helping you to understand your child’s feelings, the play way with a 10% discount code: Webinar10 is here – Follow Hayley on Instagram and Facebook


Here are they key points from the webinar



A key topic we discussed was inclusion. James said it’s very important to ensure all children are included, without making them feel like a burden. He gave an example from his childhood, when he was excluded from field trips because the schools budget did not allow for a wheelchair accessible bus. As a result he was excluded from these trips. Rather than being able to bond with his classmates in a social setting, he was left behind at school. In this sense, the panelists agreed that supporting inclusion and leaving no child behind should be the goal for every early childhood setting or school.


Offer Choice

Sarah Kelly owner of SpeakEasy SLT explained that even if a child is non-verbal, you can use visuals to encourage engagement and give choice to the child. For example, using a ‘First / then chart.’ You can take pictures of the places you’re going or the people you are meeting, so the child know in advance and can express how they feel about the planned activities or routine.


Function of the behaviour

Hayley Rice from Hayley Rice Play Therapy: if a child isn’t able to communicate, they can come from a place of frustration. For example, if a child is pushing and pinching but has limited verbal communication, you may need to look at what’s underpinning the behaviour? What is the function of the behaviour? How can you replace the behaviour, connect or re-direct? You may acknowledge the child’s feeling, set boundaries and offer an alternative to the child.


Meet the child where they are

Sarah encourages educators to observe children and patterns within their behaviour or play. Do they engage in certain behaviours when it’s a shared activity or at a certain time? Do we need to adapt our environment (e.g. the lighting the spacing)? It’s all about meeting them where they’re at – set out a few activities and see what the child goes for, look at sensory information, are they picking a ball that’s bumpy over a ball that’s smooth?

Meeting the child where they are can also be in a literal sense. Hayley referenced a student who worked well under the table. Here he felt safe and was able to play and work well. Hayley did not force him to move or sit at a desk, instead she met him under the table where he felt most comfortable.


Trauma, Mainstream Settings and Resources

We also discussed other practical strategies for educators throughout the webinar!

To conclude, we asked our panelists what was the one thing that they’d want parents/ educators to take away from this and all three rounded back on inclusivity and communication. James said to make sure to include people with additional needs in everything they do – if they do go on a field trip, make sure the activity is inclusive, so they don’t have to just sit beside the teacher, or be left isolated for long periods of time. Sarah said communication is key and to be aware that it’s more than just using the spoken word- 85% of communication is non-verbal and Hayley said to listen to the child and be guided by them, ask them how we can do more, observe them, tune into their feeling and make inclusivity a priority.

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