If your child with special needs is approaching preschool age, you’ve likely begun gathering information about the next steps for his or her education: developing an education plan, finding available programs in your area, and figuring out the best route for your child.
Individualized Education Program
If your child most likely needs special education and you plan to enroll him or her in public school, he or she will receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP). A child’s IEP changes and grows as he or she continues with school. It contains (but is not limited to) the following:
- The child’s performance in school, including results from classroom tests, assignments, etc.
- Goals that the child can reasonably accomplish each year
- A list of the special education and related services to be provided to the child or on behalf of the child
- The extent (if any) to which the child will participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and other school activities
- Transition needs, meaning the courses the child needs to take to reach his or her post-school goals
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the development of each student’s IEP takes place within the larger scope of the special education process under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal law that makes available a free appropriate public special education and related services to eligible children with disabilities.
Your Child’s Rights
Under IDEA, your child may be entitled to certain educational services. An article for Parent and Child Magazine explains that all three- to five-year-olds with documented disabilities are entitled to preschool special education and necessary related services (i.e. speech therapy) at no cost. To determine if your child is eligible, your school district will evaluate him or her for vision or hearing impairments, developmental disorders, motor delays, and more.
Depending on your school district, you might be given the following preschool education options for your child:
- A special-education preschool comprised exclusively of kids with special needs
- A preschool that includes children with and without special needs
- A mainstream community preschool with individualized support services included
- Combination plans, such as half-day special-education classes
Choosing the best option (or combination of options) depends first on your child’s specific needs. Second, it depends on your goals for his or her education. Visiting programs and discussing your child’s specific needs with the director can help you determine if the class size, number of teachers and support staff, and curriculum are appropriate. Ask how the IEP goals for your child will be worked into the program.
Part of being a parent to a special needs child is to be his or her advocate. The more research you do and questions you ask about programs in your area, the better you’ll be able to narrow your search for a great option that works with your child’s needs, personality, and talents.
About John Bair
John Bair helps families develop strategies to provide lifelong financial support for children with disabilities, catastrophic injuries, special needs, and congenital abnormalities. He is an experienced settlement planner and financial consultant. Read more about John’s work and his firm, Milestone Consulting, at http://milestoneseventh.com/.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).