Advocating for Your Preschool Child

It's never too early to start looking for ways to help your child succeed in learning. This article covers children who are under 2 and who are in preschool. They have rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Find out the first steps to take if you suspect your child has difficulty learning.

Being an advocate means knowing how to ensure that your child gets the help he or she needs to be successful. For children who experience learning difficulties, it's never too early to start looking for ways to help them succeed in learning. Even before formal schooling starts, there are things you can do to make sure your child gets help early, so that learning can be a fun and productive experience.

The federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), guarantees certain rights to preschool children through your state's Child Find program. Below are the first steps you should take if you suspect your child has difficulty learning:

  • Observe your child and start a log of the behavior you think suggests learning delays or difficulties.

  • Talk to your child about what you are observing. Try to learn more about the problems he or she appears to be having through play so that you can share specific examples with people who might be able to help. Be sure to enthusiastically praise your child's successes and good effort often.

  • Meet with your child's pediatrician, bringing along your list of observations. Be open and honest about your concerns and don't be afraid to ask questions like "Why is my child having trouble?" or "Is this something that will go away by itself?" or "Is this within the normal range of development?" Ask if developmental screenings are available; or if another medical professional (i.e., a neurologist) or an early childhood specialist (i.e., speech/language pathologist, psychologist, special educator) should evaluate your child. If you are concerned about your child's progress, don't wait to pursue further evaluation.

  • Ask the pediatrician or your local school district to make a referral to Child Find, or to the referring agency you should contact to arrange an evaluation for your child. An evaluation will provide you with the information you need to make important decisions, and will determine whether your child could be eligible for early intervention or preschool services. Evaluation findings are strictly confidential. It is up to you to decide with whom the information is shared.

Early intervention services are services for infants and toddlers up to age two that are designed to identify and address a problem or delay as early as possible. Preschool services are specially designed programs offered by public schools and are available for eligible children with disabilities beginning at age three. Until age five, these services are voluntary-you can wait to decide whether you want to enroll your child in a program that provides special help.

Once you request an evaluation, it is your right to have it completed within a set period of time, usually within 60 school days of your signing a written consent for your child to be evaluated. Don't be shy about calling or visiting the evaluation site to keep the process moving.

Bring all information about your child that you think is relevant to meetings and evaluations. When speaking to doctors, therapists or school administrators be prepared to tell them your observations about your child.

Copyright © 2009 by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc. All rights reserved.


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I agree! True differentiation should be data driven and based on student needs! Our focus should be on how we can reach ALL students!!! Also I feel students need a longer whole group lesson that includes phonics/word study, as well as comprehension instruction!!!

Doesn't differentiation also include challenging and enriching our advanced students? They need our time too!

I'd like to see more teachers get away from scheduling the same amount of time for all groups. Advanced readers will seldom need 20 minutes of small-group teacher time, while struggling readers will need much more than that if we want them to ever catch up with their peers. True differentiation requires differential use of time. Giving all kids the same thing ensures continued unequal outcomes.

Try looking up the Daily Five. Great way to organize reading workshop for any age level.

While the author recommends 5 minutes for transition, there is a total of 20 minutes used for transition in the entire 90 minutes

Correction: According to the article, the author suggests only 5 minutes for transition.

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