Early Childhood Special Education
Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) is the Hutchinson Public Schools program that provides early intervention to young children, age birth to kindergarten, who show developmental delay in the general areas of:
- Cognitive Development
- Speech and Language
- Large and Fine Motor Skills
- Adaptive/Functional Skills
- Vision or Hearing Losses
- Social/Emotional Skills
After a child receives a formal evaluation to identify specific needs, trained ECSE teachers and specialists will work with the parents and child to meet developmental and educational goals. From birth to age three, these Special Education services are delivered to the child primarily in his or her home or place of childcare. From age three to Kindergarten, children receive these services in the preschool setting. Hutchinson’s Play and Learn Preschool is one location where children may receive services.
The ECSE process guarantees parental involvement every step of the way. From birth to age three, a child’s education is outlined in the “Individual Family Service Plan,” or IFSP. After that, the child’s educational goals and objectives are spelled out in his or her “Individual Education Program,” or IEP. Parents are a key team member in putting together the IFSP and IEP.
The ECSE staff supports children and their families by:
- Helping children do the best they can through individualized program plans (IFSP and IEP) geared to promote development, based on each child’s assessed level of function and need.
- Supporting and educating families to help promote the abilities and work with the challenges of children who have special needs
- Providing parents with information about community-based experiences for their children
The Referral and Evaluation Process
Parents have the right to request an educational evaluation if they have concerns about or suspect delays in their child’s development. This evaluation will be done at no cost to the family and is provided through the school district.
What is the purpose of an evaluation in early childhood?
The purpose of an evaluation in early childhood is to determine a child’s developmental strengths and needs and to determine if a child is eligible for Special Education services through the ECSE program. Minnesota law provides a variety of ways that a child can qualify for Special Education services based on health/medical, hearing, vision, or developmental status. In early childhood, typically a child needs to exhibit a significant difference in his/her development when compared to same age peers in order to qualify for special education services through the school district. Children under the age of three may also qualify for services because they have been identified as having a diagnosed physical or mental condition or disorder that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay regardless of whether they have a demonstrated need or delay. If a child qualifies for service he/she would receive special education services at no cost to the family.
What are the Developmental Milestones for my child?
Children develop in certain predictable ways, referred to as developmental milestones. Milestones cover four areas of a child’s development — cognitive, communication and language, social and emotional, and motor. Learning more about these milestones will help you understand how your child learns and grows. Visit Help Me Grow for further information about developmental milestones.
How is a special education referral requested?
If you have concerns about your child’s development or if your child was born with a significant medical condition you can make a referral. For children age birth up to kindergarten entry, complete the referral form and return it to Sara Johnson or Sarah Watson 30 Glen St. NW, Hutchinson, MN 55350 or via fax at 320-587-5826. You may also make a referral online through the MN State referral website, Help Me Grow.
If you have any further questions about requesting a referral, you may call Sara Johnson for children birth to age three at 320-234-2619, or Sarah Watson for children ages three to five at 320-234-2712. You may also call the Early Childhood Special Education Department at 320-234-2654. For any correspondence or document drop off, the Early Childhood Special Education offices are located at 30 Glen St. NW, Hutchinson, MN 55350.
What happens when a special education referral is made?
In order to get a good picture of the whole child, Minnesota requires that all areas of the child’s development be addressed. A team of ECSE professionals typically completes an initial evaluation. The child will be seen more than once and, when appropriate, in their natural home or early childhood setting. An evaluation team may consist of an ECSE teacher, speech/language pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, school nurse, and other specialists as needed. All of these people are trained to work with very young children and their families.
If the child is under age three, the evaluation will begin with an ECSE team member. Visiting with you and your child, they will screen all areas of development and will gather a developmental and health history. If the primary concerns are in communication the screening may also include a Speech-Language Pathologist. This team will determine if the school district should complete a formal evaluation. If this team decides to go ahead with an evaluation, an Evaluation Plan is written. Once parental permission is received, the evaluation must be completed within 45 days of referral. Please see the Parental Safeguards for Infant and Toddlers Part C. Every effort is made to meet Federal law mandating completion of evaluation and meeting with the family within 45 days of referral.
If a child is age three or older, an ECSE staff member is assigned to be the evaluation case manager and primary contact for the family. This person contacts the family about developing an Evaluation Plan. The plan is developed with the parents either at a meeting with representatives of the evaluation team or, if parents prefer, over the telephone with the case manager. Please see the Parental Safeguards for Children 3-18 Part B. Once written permission is received from the parent(s) the evaluation must be completed within 30 school days.
What happens in an evaluation?
The evaluation team will play and interact with the child. This is the “informal” or observational part of the evaluation. The team gets a lot of information about children by watching them in their natural setting. Under the age of three this is most often in the home or child care setting; over the age of three this could be at home, childcare or in a preschool setting.
Formal testing using standardized test is often used to gather information about a child’s present level of development as compared to children of a similar age. The child will be asked to play or interact with materials in a certain way. Some of the tasks are easy and others are more difficult. Because of the nature of standardized tests, a child is not expected to do or understand every item that is presented. Team members may need more than one session to complete their portion of the evaluation, and sometimes two team members will work together.
Parents are encouraged to observe during an evaluation if they wish. Parent interviews and checklists are also a critical part of the evaluation. Childcare providers, preschool teachers, and other significant adults in a child’s life may be included. The evaluation team will ask parents about their child and his/her likes/dislikes and routine. In addition, parents will be asked about their concerns, questions, and anything else they would like to share about their child. Parents’ information is very important in the evaluation process and will be included in the evaluation report. Parents know their child best!
Where does the evaluation take place?
For children under the age of three, evaluations take place in the child’s home or childcare setting. In most instances, children three years and older may be brought to a school setting for some of the evaluation, but will have an observation in a natural setting such as home, preschool or child care.
How are the results of the evaluation shared with parents?
Results of the evaluation are compiled by the evaluation team and shared at a parent conference. The team will ask for any updates or new information from parents, and then share the results of the evaluation. Parents are encouraged to ask questions and let the team know whether the results are similar to what they see on a day-to-day basis. The ECSE team will refer to the results of the evaluation to determine eligibility, the child’s current level of development and possible services required.
What does the evaluation mean?
The evaluation will tell whether or not the child meets one or more of Minnesota’s eligibility criteria for Special Education services. At the evaluation conference, the team and parents will determine whether the child meets these criteria and demonstrates a need for these services. If the child is eligible, options for service delivery will also be discussed. When a decision is reached to provide special education services an IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan) or an IEP (Individual Education Program) is written. Parents participate in the discussion about the type of services that would best meet the child’s needs or to decline services.
If the child has not shown delays in development or if the delays are minimal and if the child does not qualify in other ways, the team offers suggestions and recommendations regarding ways parents can continue to enhance their child’s development. These may include resources in the community such as Early Childhood Family Education, preschools, recreation activities, etc. Parents are encouraged to contact the ECSE staff if concerns arise in the future.
An educational evaluation with children in the birth to kindergarten age range provides a “snapshot” of a child’s development at the present time only. It is not a predictor of the future. Special Education services can be provided as long as a child qualifies for them. For some children, services may be short term (one year or less), while others will need some support throughout their preschool and school age years.