Special Education Services for Preschoolers with Disabilities
Special education is instruction specifically designed to address the educational and related developmental needs of children with disabilities, or those who are experiencing developmental delays. Services for preschool children (ages 3 through 5) are provided free of charge through the public school system. These services are available through the same law—the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act—that makes Early Intervention services (Part C of IDEA), and services for school age children, in grades K through 12 (Part B of IDEA) available.
How do children access special education preschool services?
There are several ways that children may begin receiving services. Children who are receiving Early Intervention services may begin special education preschool services:
upon their transition out of Early Intervention, typically at age three;
or, at the State's discretion, two-year-olds who will turn three during the school year may receive special education preschool services.
Still other children are first identified and found eligible between the ages of two and five, and thus, may begin receiving services as preschoolers.
One of the more common ways that very young children become identified as needing special services lies in the process of attending regular well-baby and child check-ups with a pediatrician. Often a referral to a Developmental Pediatrician or other specialist is made if there's a question or concern about a child's development. This can, in turn, lead to comprehensive evaluations to fully determine if a child has a significant delay or disability and as a result needs specialized help.
Another way for very young children to become identified is through the local Child Find office. In accordance with IDEA, each State must operate comprehensive systems of child find in order to identify, locate and evaluate children with disabilities residing in the State and who are in need of special education and related services. Before children are old enough to attend public school, however, it’s not uncommon for a babysitter, a daycare provider, or preschool staff to express concern to a child’s parents about a possible developmental or learning delay. They may suggest that the parents contact the appropriate agency to have the child screened and/or evaluated to determine if there is an underlying problem or delay that might need to be addressed. Such screenings cover a range of skill areas—vision and hearing, gross and fine motor skills, speech and language use, social and emotional behavior, and more.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Dissemination Center.
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