Do you suspect that your child may have a disability? Perhaps you visited the doctor to get advice on what to do. You might have a gut instinct. Perhaps you have made comparisons between your child and others their age and concluded that they are behind. So what comes next?
Whether your child is under 3 years old or older will affect this. A school district is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to "discover" students with disabilities. From birth to age 21, children are covered by "Child Find". Children who attend private schools or are homeschooled are included in this.
You should get in touch with your local Early Childhood Intervention(ECI) Program if you believe your child, who is under three, has delays. ECI programs are known by various titles around the state. There are several ECI programs in North Texas: The Warren Center, Metrocare Services, and Dallas Center Inc., just to name a few.
You can find programs in your region by contacting Education Service Centers, or you can search the Texas ECI website to find possible programs for your child. If you are unsure of the services your child will require, an assessment might be helpful. If your child is enrolled in a preschool or child care center, ECI services and supports can be provided there as well.
As your child approaches three years of age, the ECI program and the school district will begin the process of transferring your child from ECI to a preschool or other program. There are numerous options since children are not required to attend school until the age of six.
Families have the option of forgoing participation in the transition to school process. Individuals could choose to solely use relevant services, such as therapies. Parents might postpone sending their child to school until later. If the child is eligible, there is also the Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD). At age 3, your child can then receive services from their public school.
Child Find also provides coverage for older students. Some disabilities do not surface in a student until they are older. It may be time to get testing done to see if your child qualifies for special education assistance if they are struggling in school and have a suspected disability.
Write a letter or send an email to your child's school requesting the testing. Within five school days, request a written response, and be mindful to follow up. Sign the necessary documents to launch the timeline if the school agrees to the testing. The testing should be finished in 45 school days, and the results should be discussed within 30 days in an Annual Review and Dismissal (ARD) meeting. Parents new to the special education process should also consider hiring an advocate to help navigate.
To learn more about Child Find and the referral procedures, see The Legal Framework.