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Early Stages, a DC Public Schools assessment center for children between the ages of 2 years 8 months and 5 years 10 months, is threatening to stop direct assessment services to these children enrolled in DC Public Schools. If these changes are to go into effect in the School Year 2017-2018, it is unclear how these changes will impact:
- Evaluation services for families planning on enrolling their child in a Pre-K program at a DC Public School that do not yet have an IFSP or an IEP and will be in need of an assessment;
- Re-evaluation services for families of a child with an established IEP approaching their 6th birthday, preparing to transition this child from Pre-K to general education;
- Evaluation services for families planning on enrolling their Pre-K aged child in a non-DC Public School (i.e. day care or DC Public Charter school);
- Evaluation Services for families of children with a suspected yet undiagnosed developmental delay or disability between the ages of 2 years 8 months and 5 years 10 months that are not enrolled in a formal education setting (i.e. receiving home care with parent or dedicated care taker)
- Part of the system of identification for a child with a disability includes the Universal Screening Process, of which must be done within 45 days of enrollment or the first day school – which is a questionnaire known as the Ages and Stages Questionnarie (ASQ) that parents fill out and return for evaluation to determine eligibility). The DC Action for Children organization issued a policy brief entitled “Early Intervention and Special Education in DC for Children Ages Birth to 5“. This policy brief written in June 2013, outlines a program map detailing the how not just the parents but also a medical care provider, child care worker or other adult suspects an infant or toddler of having a developmental delay. But, without seeing Early Stages new protocol in print, it is impossible to know actually what is being proposed. So a big push is to get OSSE and DCPS to be transparent in changes to policies and procedures impacting children with disabilities
- There’s a class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that started in 2005 that is still pending (D.L. vs District of Columbia, D.D.C., Civ. No. 05-1437). The claims made related to DCPS’s failure to provide adequate and timely special education and related services to 3 to 5 year old children, which violates the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and DC Law. The most compelling argument for this case is “…In the first few years of a child’s life, there exists a narrow window of opportunity in which special education, tailored to the child’s particular needs, can work a miracle.’[S]omewhere in the neighborhood of 75 to 80 percent’ of the disabled children who are found in the community and served by quality early intervention programs will go on to kindergarten alongside every other ordinary 5-year-old – without needing further supplemental special education.” Thus, proper delivery of services in Early Childhood Education is CRITICAL and justifying this prolonged case.