Special Education

The Importance of Special Education

While all children have strengths and skills unique to their personality, sometimes a child’s particular needs are best served by special education. If you’re concerned that your preschool child isn’t developing skills such as walking, talking or playing as quickly as other children their age, it’s time to talk to you pediatrician. You may discover that your child is just fine, and that their development falls within the normal range for children of their age. But if your family doctor is worried about your child’s development or you’re concerned about your child’s progress, you may ask for a referral to your school district’s program for special education.

Early Intervention for Future Success

Many school districts have “early intervention” plans to help the parents of preschool children prepare for school. Once you find out the name of the official in your area who handles special education, you’ll need to send a written request to the committee or the principal of your elementary school. A meeting will determine whether or not your child needs to be tested, and whether the officials agree that your child would benefit from special education. Early intervention programs generally apply only to children age three and younger – once your child reaches school age, a transition plan can be developed to help your child make the move to kindergarten. 

Special Help for School-age Kids

If you’re concerned about difficulties your school-age child is having in school, first talk to the teacher. Many schools offer special programs within the regular school curriculum that could help your child – services like psychological counseling, speech and language therapy, and curriculum changes. After working with some of these support services, your child may still be having difficulty – if so, your child may have a disability which affects his or her learning, and you can ask for a referral to your district’s committee on special education.

As a parent, you can request a referral for your child at any time. Your child’s teacher, or another professional in your child’s school may also make a referral for special education. Referrals may also be made by doctors, family court judges, probation officer or other officials connected to public agencies. You’re the one who knows your child best, however, and you have the most specific and valuable knowledge about your child’s abilities. Working together with education experts who know the ins and outs of special education programs and services, you should be able to find the best education options for your child’s needs.

Types of Tests

The tests and assessments that will be administered as part of your child’s evaluation, should be given by professionals who trained, knowledgeable and certified to give the tests. The initial evaluation will most likely include:

  • a physical examination
  • a psychological evaluation
  • a family history
  • observation of your child in their current education setting
  • appropriate tests and assessments
  • vocational assessments

If you’re not satisfied by the outcome of the assessments, you can request that it be done again. The goal is not to assess your child’s intelligence or social skills, but rather whether they may benefit from special education. Once you have a better understanding of your child’s learning abilities, you can work with their teacher to create a learning plan that will help them make the most of their education, no matter what challenges they may face.

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