Three is an exciting milestone—your little one is no longer a baby and preschool is on the horizon. But what if you have concerns about whether your child is on track with his or her peers?
Rachel Horak of Odenton contacted Anne Arundel County Child Find to request an evaluation for her daughter Arleigh following a routine visit with her pediatrician. “Arleigh had limited speech, but was very independent so I always assumed speech would just pick up on its own,” says Horak. “When she was still behind at two, her pediatrician recommended a speech evaluation.”
Child Find diagnosed Arleigh with autism spectrum disorder. It was recommended she be placed in the Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) preschool program at Oakwood Elementary. There she received one-on-one social and speech services.
Child Find services stem from the federal law called the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, which requires school districts to have a process for identifying and evaluating children who may need special education or services such as counseling, speech or occupational therapy.
If a family believes their child could benefit from special education or related services they can contact Child Find to request an evaluation. The program covers every child from birth to age 21. In Anne Arundel County, the Preschool Child Find office focuses on children ages 3 to 5.
If the school system agrees that the child may have a disability, it will set up an evaluation. During this evaluation, the family will discuss concerns about their child’s development with the Child Find team, consisting of a speech/language pathologist, special educator, occupational therapist and/or physical therapist. The team will gather information in areas of concern through formal, standardized assessment, and use any information already available from prior services through the Infants and Toddlers program.
Following the evaluation, there will be an Eligibility Determination Meeting which will officially determine whether or not a child meets the criteria to receive special education services. In order to be eligible for special education services when turning 3, a child must have one of 14 educational disabilities that negatively impacts his/her ability to successfully participate in preschool level activities. These disabilities include: developmental delay; speech or language impairment; autism; hearing or visual impairment; intellectual disability; orthopedic impairment; emotional disability; or traumatic brain injury.
If your child is eligible to receive special education services, a follow-up Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting will be scheduled to develop an appropriate program to meet your child’s specific needs. For Arleigh, the Early Childhood Intervention program was chosen to best suit her individual needs. Other children receive services at home, private preschools, Head Start programs or in childcare. The goal is for the child to receive services tailored to his or her individual needs in a natural setting and the least restrictive environment.
After Arleigh finished attending the ECI preschool, she continued to receive weekly speech- and one-on-one social services. “Both specialists came to her Preschool so it was very convenient,” says Horak.
Today Arleigh receives speech services from a private contractor and attends Indian Creek School, where she continues to thrive. Her mom describes her as chatty and social with a passion for learning.
If you have concerns about your child’s development or feel he/she may have a disability, contact your local Child Find office to request an evaluation. Anne Arundel County residents can start their search at aacps.org/childfind.
Contact numbers for all the Child Find offices in Maryland can be found here: marylandpublicschools.org/programs/Documents/Special-Ed/MITP/InfantsToddlersChildFindContactList.pdf