Martha Merritt, Special Education Process Coordinator
A very important part of our special education service is Early Childhood Special Education.
“The purpose of the ECSE program is to provide service to identified children with disabilities in an effort to prepare them to enter Kindergarten with skills necessary to get meaningful benefit from their education and to participate in the general education curriculum to the extent appropriate for their individual needs.” (Quote from Special Educators who met in Jefferson City in 2010 in order to proactively address the growth of the Early Childhood program in the state of Missouri.)
Children can be referred to the public school’s special education department by an agency such as Parents as Teachers, Head Start, First Steps, or by the parent.
Procedural Safeguards are sent to the parent within five days of referral, and the parent is expected to complete a form detailing areas that may be delayed.
If a disability is suspected, the IEP team meets together with the parent and the agency (if the parent desires the agency to attend).
At this meeting the team decides whether an evaluation is necessary to determine whether the child has developmental delays that can be addressed in the special education setting.
After the evaluation results are gathered, the team meets a second time to go over the results with the parent. Depending upon the standard scores or quotients, as set for the in the Missouri Special Education Compliance Plan, the team can make the decision to offer services to the child upon or after his/her third birthday.
If the child is eligible for services, an Individual Education Plan is written and services are provided according to the goals and minutes of service in the plan. The services may include Speech, Language, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and/or Special Education services in a pre-school educational setting.
In order to qualify in any of these areas, the delay must impact his/her ability to access the general education curriculum.
If a child has mild delays, but is progressing as expected in pre-school academic areas, ECSE supervisors need to closely monitor the progress by reviewing the child’s data, talking with the family and or pre-school staff.
If the child is receiving services requiring an IEP, the plan is revised yearly according to the progress made during the IEP year.
The child is re-evaluated every three years, or by the child’s sixth birthday, whichever comes first.
Early Childhood Special Education promotes child independence and engagement, prepares the child for Kindergarten, and works with the family by helping them understand how to help their child in the home to promote future education success.