Ask the SCIC Director: Natural Environments

November 19, 2021

Why should I enthusiastically invite early intervention providers to provide services to children with disabilities in my child care program/classroom?

  • Because children with disabilities have a right to access and meaningful participation in early childhood settings.
  • Because early intervention providers can offer suggestions on the best way to include a child with a disability in your classroom.
  • Because you can provide valuable information to the early intervention provider about the child’s engagement in the classroom.
  • Because you can support the family of a child with a disability by accommodating their child’s needs in your program and classroom.
  • Because your classroom is a Natural Environment and early intervention services are required to be provided in the natural environment according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Natural Environments Defined:

A Natural Environment is any location or space where children without disabilities spend their time. This includes the home, community settings, and community early childhood programs. Early care and education classrooms that enroll children from the community are natural environments. Children with and without disabilities can play and learn together in these settings. For children birth to three with identified disabilities, the IDEA specifies that early intervention services should be provided in the natural environment. The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act considers allowing early intervention service providers to support a child with a disability in the classroom to be a reasonable accommodation.

Tips for how to partner with early intervention providers:

  • Communicate with the child’s family upon enrollment about the child’s individual needs. If the child is already eligible for early intervention services and is receiving services share your interest in partnering with the child’s early intervention providers.
  • Ask parents to provide consent to allow you to review the child’s plan and talk with the direct service providers.
  • Work with the early intervention providers to schedule a time for them to provide services to the child in the classroom.
  • Share your contact information with the early intervention providers and ask for them to share theirs with you so you can communicate about the child’s needs.

What about Covid?

The CDC just released updated COVID-19 Guidance for Operating Early Care and Education/Child Care Programs. The guidance includes a section on Children with Disabilities or other Healthcare Needs. This guidance provides strategies that child care programs can use to safely provide access to the classroom for direct service providers. 

Learn more: