Down Syndrome doesn’t alone qualify you for special Education

I have long since known that there are different categories to qualify for special education.  You are eligible for services if you have a disability.  Autism has an umbrella in the school districts which qualify a child for services.  Down Syndrome does not.  I’m guessing there are  many parents out there who are not aware of this.  Just because your child has Down Syndrome doesn’t guarantee them any extra services.  To qualify for special education, each child will have to be tested and fall into a different category.  I would imagine that most children with Down Syndrome would fall under Cognitive Impairment.  Most would also fall under special ed through speech/language.  So, you are wondering why this is so important?  If you child has Down Syndrome, he or she will get services, right?  Of course.  The big question is how long will it take before services begin.

School districts today put children in an intervention category long before they are grouped into special education.  Intervention means they will receive intervention services in the hopes that he or she will receive enough to totally bypass special education.  Sometimes these services can last two years before there is enough evidence to run testing that would determine eligibility.  Why is it important to have your child labeled special ed?  Mainly, once your child becomes eligible for services he or she now has certain entitlements and rights.  Modifications can be made where as before the school district was not obligated to do so.  You as a parent also have rights if your  child is in the special ed system.   So, here is some helpful information that all parents of Down  Syndrome children need to know.

First and foremost, early intervention or birth to three is your friend.  This program feeds right into the Early Education program of your school district.  The Early Education program, is the special preschool program that all school districts must have.  This is not the same as Headstart.  You cannot qualify for this program because of your income.  And if you are in a birth to three program, it’s very easy to transition into the Early Education program.  I have had three children go through this program for speech alone.  If you are not in a birth to three program, or Early Intervention, it becomes harder to qualify for the special ed preschool.  In fact, many children who only need speech won’t qualify if they didn’t already do Early Intervention.  They may qualify for speech services, but not the preschool.  The special ed preschool is phenomenal.  In the districts I have known, it is offered four half days a week, includes transportation and is free of charge.  Some districts try to group the children according to their disability.  So when Alex, Joey and Ben did this class in Michigan, they were grouped with other kids who had speech delays.  The teacher will be certified to teach preschool and special education and there will be a paraprofessional in the room.  Speech, PT, and OT services are all provided during class time.  Parents should be aware that most states do not require preschool teachers to be certified unless they are teaching special education.

If your child does the special education preschool program, he or she will walk into kindergarten and on the very first day receive services.  They will begin school with an IEP (Individual Education Plan) already in place.  They will be a part of the special ed system with all of the resources and rights afforded to them.

I know there are a lot of parents out there who do not want their child to be “labeled.”  They want their child in a regular preschool with regular kids.  They don’t want their child to feel different.  Maybe the parent doesn’t want to feel different.  I understand that and as a parent, everyone has their own choice to make.  But for me and the label, I say bring it on.  It’s like a doctor giving a diagnosis, once you know what it is your dealing with you can treat it.  Once your child has that label from the school district, they will tailor the education.  I would recommend that all parents get to know the person in their school district who is the Director of special education.  If your district doesn’t have someone with this title, look for the Director of Student Services.  Get all of the information you can to make a good decision.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Katie Scott
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 18:51:35

    Lisa, keep writing. I have already cried and laughed reading what you have here. You are a great mom and a brave woman– I think perhaps two things go hand in hand?

    Reply

  2. Elaine Kocab Novosel
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 06:09:25

    Lisa,

    You have gained a wealth of knowledge and how wonderful of you to share what you have learned with others. God bless you.

    Reply

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