In episode #6 of the FDCA Online Engagement Series, FDCA Advocacy and Engagement Manager, Michael Farrell is joined by 2022 National Educator of the Year, Hannah Smith, Family Day Care Coordinator and 2015 Educator of the Year National Finalist, Samantha Folan and Owner and Director of Autism Inclusion, Gee van der Watt, to explore the topics of neurodiversity and inclusion from a family day care and early learning context.
The panel provides advice on support services and resources that are accessible to family day care educators and services, as well as strategies for supporting neurodivergent children and their families.
In this episode, Gee van der Watt references some templates that FDCA members may wish to download. These templates are available below:
Midcoast Family Day Care Family Day Care Educator and 2022 National Educator of the Year
Hannah Smith is a family day care educator with Midcoast Family Day Care and has been working in early education for over twenty years, with fifteen of those in family daycare.
Hannah is passionate about nature play, inclusivity and is currently studying Masters of inclusive practices.
Hannah is also the current Excellence in Family Day Care Awards National Educator of the Year after being presented with the award in 2022.
Community Vision Family Day Care Family Day Care Coordinator and 2015 Educator of the Year National Finalist
Samantha is a coordinator with Community Vision Family Day Care Service in Western Australia. Before taking on this role in 2022, Sam was an experienced educator herself for 9 years operating Mumfi’s Munchkins Family Day Care and was acknowledged as Western Australia Educator of the year in the 2015 Excellence in Family Day Care Awards. Sam has also been nominated as coordinator of the year in this year’s awards.
Sam’s passion lies in ensuring all children are given opportunities to learn at their own pace and within their own interests and abilities. She believes that the adults within children’s lives play a huge role in how a child can be included within their environments. “We need to make our environments work for the children’s needs, rather than trying to mould children to work within our environments”.
Sam advocates for free play within nature and showing children and educators how they can learn from the natural environment with little to no planning necessary. She regularly engages with the children at the family day care services she visits and enjoys mentoring and learning from the Educators she works with.
Gee van der Watt
Autism Inclusion Owner and Director
Gee is a qualified teacher with a B.Ed. Honours degree in Educational Psychology. She has more than a decade’s experience in supporting autistic children in a specialist Early Learning and Care setting in Perth.
She has been delivering inclusion training and coaching to educator teams since 2017, and worked with a range of ECEC services in Western Australia to improve their capacity and capability to include all children.
Gee is passionate about, and a strong advocate for child-centred, holistic, and strengths-based practices that are neurodiversity-affirming, and focused on meaningful engagement, participation and learning for all children. It brings her joy and satisfaction to see educators unlock their potential to effectively and confidently support neurodiverse children, and others with developmental differences.