Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative Central Intake/Referral line at #218-454-5534
Early Childhood Special Education… A Quick Overview
Early Childhood Special Education is a Brainerd Public Schools program that provides early intervention and preschool special education to young children, age birth to kindergarten, who show developmental delay in the general areas of speech and language, large and fine motor skills, social and emotional behavior, cognitive and/or adaptive skills, or have vision or hearing losses. After a child receives a formal evaluation to identify specific needs, trained ECSE teachers and specialists will work with the parents and child to develop his/her greatest potential. From birth to age three, these Special Education services are delivered to the child primarily in his/her home or child care center. From age three to Kindergarten, children receive these services at a variety of sites including: Washington Education Services Building, ISD 181 Learning Center, Head Start, Baxter School, and Nisswa School.
The ECSE process guarantees parental involvement every step of the way. From birth to age three, a child's education is outlined in the "Individual Family Service Plan," or IFSP. After that, the child's educational goals and objectives are spelled out in his/her "Individual Education Plan," or IEP. Parents are a key team member in putting together the IFSP and IEP.
The ECSE staff supports children and their families by:
Parents have the right to request an educational evaluation if they have concerns about or suspect delays in their child’s development. This evaluation will be done at no direct cost to the family. It is provided through the school district.
What is the purpose of an “educational evaluation"?
The purpose of an evaluation is to determine if a child has delays in any areas of development which would make him or her eligible for special education services. Minnesota law requires that a child show a certain amount of delay in order to qualify for special education services through the school district. Under the age of three children may also qualify for services because they have been identified as having a diagnosed physical or mental condition or disorder that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay regardless of whether they have a demonstrated need or delay. If a child qualifies for service he or she would receive special education services at no direct cost to the family.
How is a special education referral requested?
A referral for a child birth- Age 7 can be made to the Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative Cerntral Intake/ Referral line at #218-454-5534.
What happens when a Special Ed referral is made?
If the child is Birth- Age 5, the evaluation will begin with an Early Intervention Teacher/Intake Coordinator, who will screen all areas of development and will gather a developmental and health history. Based on the screening results further evaluation may be needed. An ECSE staff member is assigned to be the evaluation case manager and primary connection with the family. This person contacts the family about developing an Evaluation Plan. The Plan is developed with the parents either at a meeting with the evaluation team members or, if parents prefer, over the telephone with the case manager.
In order to get a good picture of the whole child, Minnesota requires that all areas of the child’s development be addressed. A team of ECSE professionals typically completes an initial evaluation.
Who performs the evaluation? Are parents involved?
An evaluation team may consist of an ECSE Teacher, Psychologist, Speech/Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapist and/or other specialists as appropriate. Health, vision/hearing and developmental information will be obtained as a part of the evaluation.
Parents are encouraged to observe during an evaluation if they wish. Parent interviews and checklists are also a part of the evaluation. Childcare providers, preschool teachers, and other significant adults in a child's life may be included. The evaluation team will ask parents about their child and his/her likes/dislikes and routine. In addition parents will be asked about their concerns, questions, and anything else they would like to share about their child. Parents’ information is very important in the evaluation process and will be included in the evaluation report. Parents know their child best!
What happens in an evaluation?
The evaluation team will play and interact with the child. This is the “informal” or observational part of the evaluation. The team gets a lot of information about children by watching them in their natural setting. Under the age of three this is most often in the home or child care setting; over the age of three this could be at home, childcare or in a preschool setting.
Formal testing using standardized test is often used to gather information about a child’s present level of development as compared to children of a similar age. The child will be asked to play or interact with materials in a certain way. Some of the tasks are easy and others are more difficult. Because of the nature of standardized tests, a child is not expected to do or understand every item that is presented. Team members may need more than one session to complete their portion of the evaluation, and some times two team members will work together.
Where does the evaluation take place?
For children under the age of three, evaluations take place in the child’s home or child care setting. In most instances children three years and older will be brought to the ECSE Site for some of the evaluation, but will have an observation in a natural setting such as home, preschool or child care.
How are the results of the evaluation shared with parents?
Results of the evaluation are compiled by the evaluation team and shared at a parent conference. The team will ask for any updates or new information from parents, and then share the results of the evaluation. Parents are encouraged to ask questions and let the team know whether the results are similar to what they see on a day to day basis. The team may present percentages and other numbers pertaining to the child's level of development. These numbers are required for eligibility and provide the baseline for staff to help the child.
What does the evaluation mean?
The evaluation will tell whether or not the child meets one or more of Minnesota’s eligibility criteria for Special Education services. At the evaluation conference, the team and parents will determine whether the child meets these criteria and demonstrates a need for these services. If the child is eligible, options for service delivery will also be discussed. When a decision is reached to provide special education services an IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan), or an IEP (Individual Education Plan) is written. Parents have the right to participate in the discussion about the type of services that would best meet the child’s needs or to decline services.
If the child has not shown delays in development, if the delays are minimal and if the child does not qualify in other ways, the team offers suggestions and recommendations regarding ways parents can continue to enhance their child’s development. These may include resources in the community such as Early Childhood Family Education, preschools, recreation activities, etc. Parents are encouraged to contact the ECSE staff if concerns arise in the future.
An educational evaluation with children in the birth to kindergarten age range provides a “snapshot” of a child’s development at the present time only. It is not a predictor of the future. Special education services can be provided as long as a child qualifies for them. For some children, services may be short term (one year or less), while others will need some support throughout their preschool and school age years.