Kids respond to having a dog at their daycare for a day

A child at the Lily Garden Child Care Center meets WhitneyWe’re focusing on inclusive childcare centers this month, and that gives me a great opportunity to tell you about a trip my Seeing Eye dog Whitney and I took to Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region to visit the Lily Garden Child Care Center there. The Lily Garden Child Care Center is an inclusive preschool and child care program for children with or without disabilities –it offers both full- and part-time childcare to children from the community, children enrolled in therapy services, their siblings and children of Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region employees.

From time to time, the Lilly Garden Center has guests come to read to the kids. They thought it would be especially appropriate for me to read from a Braille version of my children’s book Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound, and they were right. We had a ball!

I knew that some of the kids at the center had disabilities, but truth is, without being able to see them, I couldn’t tell. Some were scared of Whitney, some couldn’t stop petting her, others gave her kisses. Some seemed shy, others went on and on and on  about their own dog at home. Which of these behaviors were due to disabilities, and which were due to… well … childhood? Who knew? All we did know is that something different was happening in the room during our visit, and that we were all having fun.

Our own son has significant physical and developmental disabilities. Gus is 28 years old now and lives in a group home, and now I sure wish there’d been an inclusive childcare center available for him when he was a toddler. My visit with Whitney to the Lily Garden at Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region showed me that everyone can benefit from inclusive programs like theirs.


 

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