Preschool Special Education Services Program:
What are Preschool Services and where are they located?
Maryland Preschool Services include special instruction and related services provided to young children, ages three through five, who qualify under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA, Part B, Section 619). Through its twenty-four local school systems (23 counties and Baltimore City), Maryland's Preschool Services program ensures the provision of a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to all eligible children at no cost to their families, and in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). LRE means that young children with disabilities should receive services in typical community-based early childhood settings and programs whenever possible, and only go to more restrictive or specialized settings when their individual needs require it.
Who is eligible?
Young children ages 3 through 5 who have a disability as defined by one of the categories listed below are eligible for preschool services provided through the local school system. In some local school systems preschool children may also be eligible if they meet the criteria of Developmental Delay (please contact the Child Find Coordinator in your local school system to find out if the Developmental Delay criteria are used). In Maryland, the categories of disability include:
- Emotional Disturbance
- Multiple Disabilities
- Other Health Impairment
- Speech/Language Impairment
- Visual Impairment
- Hearing Impairment
- Mental Retardation
- Orthopedic Impairment
- Specific Learning Disability
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Developmental Delay
How does a child become eligible?
Starting with the local school system Child Find office, children can receive screening services to identify any areas of concern for further assessment by a multidisciplinary team. Following completion of assessments, the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Team, of which parents are essential members, meets to review and discuss findings in order to make a determination of eligibility under one of the established disability categories.
What happens next?
Once a child is determined to have a disability, the IEP Team works together to develop the IEP, a written document identifying the special education and related services necessary to support the child's development and educational program. The IEP allows everyone with a role in teaching and nurturing the child to understand what the child will need to grow and prosper, and the particular role they can play as a supportive member of the child's team.
Services identified on an IEP might include special instruction, speech and language therapy, physical and occupational therapy, assistive technology devices and services, psychological services, and other services identified by the IEP Team as necessary for the child to benefit from participating in an educational program.
Where can services be provided?
After the IEP is developed and agreed upon by the IEP Team, the next important step in the process is to identify the setting, or Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), in which the child's special education and related services needs can be met. Appropriate LRE settings for preschool children can include a preschool special education class in (or closest to) the neighborhood school, a general education preschool program, local Head Start program, approved private preschool, child care center, or another early childhood setting available within the community.
What are procedural safeguards and why are they important?
Procedural Safeguards are policies established to ensure and protect the basic rights of children receiving special education and related services. Parents receive a copy of the Procedural Safeguards as part of every IEP Team meeting, and should be encouraged to ask questions about any of the policies and procedures as well as concerns they may have about their child's program.
For more information about Maryland Preschool Services, contact the local school system Child Find office, or the Maryland State Department of Education, Preschool Services Section, 410-767-0261 or 1-800-535-0182.