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Special Education Articles: Early Intervention Articles: Three Through Five Years

PART II: Questions and Answers About Special Education Programs
Preschoolers with Disabilities (Ages 3 Through 5 Years Old)

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities
Update August, 1994

Q: What should I do if I think my preschool child needs special education?

A: If you think your preschooler needs special education, you will first want to find out if he or she is eligible for a special education program. There are people who can help you with this. Read on, and we will explain how to contact them.
Note, October 1997--
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has been amended! This is the law that guides how schools deliver special education and related services to students with disabilities. You will be reading about the IDEA in this publication. This note is to alert you that, while much of the law remains essentially the same, some aspects have changed as a result of the amendments just passed in June, 1997. Bear this in mind as you read about the IDEA in this publication. NICHCY prides itself on providing accurate, up-to-date information on disability issues, so we are working hard to update all of our publications to reflect the newest version of the law. Please bear with us while we tackle this enormous job! If you have questions about the new amendments, please feel free to contact NICHCY.

Q: What are special education programs?

A: Special education programs are specially designed programs in public schools offered at no cost to families of children with disabilities. Today, under P.L.102-119, all schools must offer special education services to eligible 3-5 year olds with disabilities.

Q: Who do I contact first for help?

A: The best place to start is your local public elementary school. (In most cases, this would be the school that other children who live near you attend.) Call and ask to speak to the principal or to someone in charge of special education at the school. If this doesn't work, look on the NICHCY State Resource Sheet under "State Department of Education." Call the Early Childhood Specialist for children ages 3-5 years and ask for the name and phone number of the person in your area in charge of these programs. Explain that you want to find out about special education services for your child. Ask what you need to do to arrange for an evaluation.

Write down the names and phone numbers of everyone you talk to. Having this information available may be helpful to you later on. The sample record-keeping worksheet below can help you start a file of information about your child. As time goes by, you will want to add other information to your file, such as:--Letters and notes (from doctors, therapists, etc.);
--Medical records and reports;
--Results of tests and evaluations;
--Notes from meetings about your child;
--Therapists reports;
--IFSP and IEP records;
--Your child's developmental history, including personal notes or diaries on your child's development;
--Records of shots and vaccinations; and
--Family medical histories.

Make sure you get copies of all written information about your child (records, reports,etc.). This will help you become an important coordinator of services and a better advocate for your child. Remember, as time goes on, you'll probably have more information to keep track of, so it's a good idea to keep it together in one place.



Name of person or agency you talked to:
Name of your contact person
Date you called:
Phone #
Results of discussion:

Action taken:

Person not helpful on this topic, but may be helpful regarding (list topics/areas/issues):

Q: What is an evaluation?

A: Evaluation means the procedures used to determine whether a child has a disability and the extend of the special education and related services the child needs. In regards to your child, this information may come from:
-- Doctors' reports;
-- Results from developmental tests given to your child;
-- Your child's medical history;
-- Observations and feedback from all members of the assessment team, including parents; and
-- Any other important observations, records, and/or reports about your child.

Q: Who conducts my child's evaluation?

A: Your child's evaluation will be conducted by a multidisciplinary team of group of persons. Who is involved will depend on the rules in your state or school district. Ask your school contact person what the policy is for getting an evaluation for your child.

Q: Will I have to pay for the evaluation or for any services my child may be eligible for?

A: Special education services are offered for 3-5-year-olds at no cost to parents. The assessment and evaluation process is considered part of these services and is provided at no cost to families.

Q: Are there any parent groups in my area that can give me more information about special education?

A: There are several types of parent programs, including:
-- Support groups (such as Parent-to-Parent) for families of children with disabilities;
-- Parent training and information programs funded by the federal government, such as the Technical Assistance for Parent Programs (TAPP) Project; and
-- Groups concerned with a specific disability, such as United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Inc. (UPCA), or the Arc (formerly the Association for Retarded Citizens of the United States).

Parent groups can offer information, support, and/or training to families of children with disabilities to help them take a more active role in their children's education. Through such groups, families meet other families with similar needs to discuss local resources, daily problems, and personal insights. For more details on these and other parent groups, contact NICHCY and ask for our "Parent's Guide to Accessing Parent Groups."

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities - Update August, 1994
A Parent's Guide to Accessing Programs For Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers with Disabilities

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities
P.O. Box 1492
Washington, DC 20013
1-800-695-0285 (Voice/TT)
E-mail: nichcy@aed.org
Web site: http://www.nichcy.org/

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