By Lisa Backer & Mary Hunt
Early Childhood Special Education
Minnesota Department of Education
As a parent it is important to understand how children develop and learn. All children develop at different rates. However, there are some general guidelines which help parents and professionals better determine if young children may be experiencing developmental delays.
Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) ensures that children from birth through two years of age receive early intervention services if they are entitled to them. The federal regulations provide the framework for Developmental Delays. Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides provision for services for children from age three - 21.
If your child is eligible for services an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP), Individual Interagency Intervention Plan (IIIP) or Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is written. For infants and toddlers, services are provided in a natural environment including the home, childcare setting, early childhood special education program or other early childhood education settings.
Preschool children ages three - kindergarten entrance with disabilities are served in the "least restrictive environment" (LRE). This means that, to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with children who are not disabled. Least restrictive settings are often community settings such as Head Start centers, community-based preschool programs, childcare facilities or School Readiness programs. The amount and type of service are dependent on the unique needs of the child.
Appropriate services include: family education and counseling, special instruction, home visits, occupational and physical therapy, speech pathology, audiology, psychological services, nursing, respite care, nutrition, assistive technology, transportation, social work, vision services, service coordination, medical services for diagnostic and evaluation purposes, early identification, screening and assessment.
If you have questions about your child's development, you can access information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Website. The Website provides specific guidelines about typical development, interactive charts and warning signs of developmental delay. If you have concerns about the way your child is developing, you can talk to your doctor or access assistance through an early intervention program in your local area. Find a program near you.