Three to Six

We need to understand where and how at-risk children are admitted into special education. We need to know who decides and by what criteria. What are the danger spots? With this sort of information we can begin to control misidentifications through school leadership.

Children are referred for special education from age three to six years. There are different routes to eligibility: early intervention transfer, parents and child-find. Yes, this is a point where misidentification errors can be freshly made, or compounded.

Developmentally delayed children from early intervention carry with them medical and developmental assessments leading to continuing eligibility. Inter-agency teams help them transition into the local public school special education department. At the transition point eligibility criteria change, and team members must sort out how to translate.

Children who are developmentally delayed in Arizona are evaluated for “physical, cognitive, language/communication, social/emotional, and adaptive self-help” delays. With transference to a public school, they must qualify for special education services “…based on the results of tests and information gathered in seven areas: vision, hearing, cognitive development, physical development, communication development, adaptive development, and social and emotional development. A child must meet criteria for one of the following special education classifications, described in ARS §15-761: Preschool Moderate Delay, Preschool Severe Delay, Preschool Speech/Language Delay, Hearing Impaired, or Visually Impaired” (Ed.Com)”

Parents are warned to be alert to the changes at hand, ones that confuse the practical side of proper special education identification:
“1) of the change in types of services from the medical model to the educational model; 2) that services will need to be based on an educational need rather than a therapeutic need; and 3) that the use of classifications or labels for the child will be common place. Parents may need to learn new special education terms.”

Part C is relatively new and still evolving, therefore, so are the standards. On July 31, Cirrrveau and Andrews, of the Arizona Department of Education, announced:

“The DD (Developmental Delay) category has the same definition as the former Preschool Moderate Delay (PMD) category, but extends up to age ten. Preschool funding for DD is the same as the former PMD category and funding for school-aged DD students is the same as Emotionally Disabled (ED), Mild Moderate Retardation (MIMR), Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD), Speech-Language Impairment (SLI) and Other Health Impaired (OHI). Preschool Speech-Language Impairment (PSL) was absorbed and is defined in the (SLI) Category. Preschool Severe Delay (PSD), Visual Impairment (VI) and Hearing Impairment (HI) retain the same definition and funding.

A DD category in Arizona allows districts to identify preschool children with moderate delays as developmentally delayed and this educational category may stay with the child as they transition to kindergarten. IEP teams are able to focus on the child’s ongoing progress monitoring assessments and other data to determine present levels and needed goals and services as the child transitions to kindergarten rather than reevaluating every child to determine a school-age category. Children identified as SLI will also more easily transition to kindergarten without the need for re-determining eligibility from PSL to SLI.”

We see in the Arizona system no preschool label for “learning disabilty” or any discussion of how under-identification might be addressed: “Under-identification — that is, failing to identify children who have disabilities and need special education to succeed in school” (Congress). This is the danger point where states must anticipate learning disabilities and intervene properly to reduce the number of children placed in special education. This is a critical topic for further discussion. One can argue easily that the early use of the SLI category is absorbing LD pupils until they fail academically, termed the “wait to fail” problem.

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