Birth to Three

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. With this sort of information we can begin to control misidentifications through school leadership.

A starting point is state-to-state early intervention programs. Infants and toddlers from 0 to 3 years can receive early intervention services under Part C of IDEA 2004. For example, in Arizona, services are rendered under the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Arizona Early Intervention Program, or AzEIP (Arizona 0-3). A child can be referred to AzEIP by interested parties, and referrals can be made online. U. S. states use different agencies under the law, and procedures vary quite a bit.

“Developmental delay” in Arizona means…”a child has not reached fifty percent of the developmental milestones expected at his/her chronological age in one or more of the following areas of childhood development:  physical, cognitive, language/communication, social/emotional, and adaptive self-help” (Arizona 0-3). Early signs necessitate flexible and inconclusive diagnoses because of the plasticity of early development. Categories are broad. Indefiniteness opens the door to all kinds of early diagnostic errors shaping subsequent educational decisions.

Arizona children can receive services where there is an Established Condition: “Diagnosis of a physical or mental condition which has a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay.” Suggested conditions include: “chromosomal abnormalities, significant auditory impairment, intraventricular hemorrhage, cerebral palsy, significant visual impairment, metabolic disorders, neural tube defects, periventricular leukomalacia, hydrocephalus, severe attachment disorder, or failure to thrive.”

Medical opinion carries weight, and it too can condition later educational decisions. Medical diagnosis does not predict educational disability, particularly, learning disability. An elegibility translation must be carried out by IEP teams.

Eligibility can be based on “Informed Clinical Opinion: A review of records, evaluations, and observations to help make assessment and eligibility decisions.”

At the level of early intervention we can expect all three kinds of misidentification to result from eligibility decisions:

“Under-identification — that is, failing to identify children who have disabilities and need special education to succeed in school;

Over-identification — that is, classifying students with disabilities they do not have; and

Late identification — that is, delaying identification of students with disabilities until later in their schooling when special education services may be less effective” (Congress).

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