How to Use Special Care Plans
A child with special needs is a child who has or is at increased risk of chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or
emotional conditions and who requires health and related services of a type or amount beyond that required by
Which Enrolled Children Have a Special Need?
One in 4 children has a special need. Many early education and child care programs enroll children who have behavior
concerns or a developmental delay. Some receive services from a specialist. Ideally, the specialist shares techniques the
adults in the child’s life can use to improve the child’s everyday functioning. The sharing of special care plans helps
provide better care for any type of special need—asthma, a seizure disorder, a peanut allergy, diﬃculty handling
transitions, dealing with aggressive impulses, or a lag in acquisition of age-appropriate skills. An excellent way to learn
more about children with special needs is to complete the online self-learning module from the Early Childhood
Education Linkage System (ECELS) called “Caring for Children with Special Needs.” Find and use the self-learning
module on the ECELS Web site at www.ecels-healthychildcarepa.org by clicking “Professional Development/Training”
in the main menu bar, and then selecting “Self-Learning Modules.” In addition to the self-learning module, the ECELS
Web site has many useful items related to caring for children with special needs.
Who Needs a Care Plan?
Child care staﬀ members should have a special care plan for any child who has an ongoing medical, developmental, or
behavioral condition. Care plans should specify daily care, including care for any situations in which the child might
require special care, including an emergency. An excellent reference book for teachers/caregivers is the American
Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Managing Chronic Health Needs in Child Care and Schools: A Quick Reference Guide,
edited by Elaine A. Donoghue, MD, FAAP, and Colleen A. Kraft, MD, FAAP. This book oﬀers policies and procedures
necessary to consider in child care and has more than 35 quick reference sheets for speciﬁc conditions.
Why Do Early Care and Education Program Staﬀ Members Need Care Plans?
Teachers/caregivers need as much information as possible about the daily and emergency needs of all children.
Include a “Care Plan for a Child With Special Needs in Child Care” and a “Special Care Plan for a Child With Behavior
Concerns” in your facility’s admission packet. This lets parents/legal guardians know what type of information the
program needs. Ask parents/legal guardians to give the completed form to the program before the child’s ﬁrst day. The
care plan information guides the education of staﬀ members so they can properly care for the child. Every program
needs general policies and procedures for medication administration. Each child who needs medication at home or
while in the program should have the details speciﬁed in the care plan as well. Some children need special diets or
adjustment of their activities or the environment. Some require an individual plan for medical and facility emergencies.
Who Is Responsible for the Care Plan?
Every adult involved in the child’s care must know and be able to implement the plan. The child’s health care profes-
sional should complete the care plan. The parent/legal guardian must help the health care professional understand what
the child’s program must know and the need to provide this information in nonmedical terms. For some children, the
parent/legal guardian can complete most of the form. Then the health care professional should review and add any
needed information. For a child with a complex condition, parents/legal guardians should schedule an oﬃce visit with
the health care professional to discuss and complete the form, which will take more time than usually scheduled for a
well-child checkup. The sections that apply to a speciﬁc child on the care plan are easy to ﬁll out. Some children will
have more than one health care professional or specialist who will contribute additional medical or educational
information (eg, Individual Family Service Plan, Individual Education Plan).