SOESD / Learning Matters / Newsletter Archive / September 2006 / Early Intervention / Early Childhood Special Education
Early Intervention / Early Childhood Special Education
Who Are Those People and What do They Do?
By now many of you have heard or read that the Southern Oregon ESD has become the new home for Early Intervention Services in Josephine County. Perhaps some of you are wondering just what it is that we do and how we fit into the ESD?
Early Intervention (EI) and Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) services are provided to children from birth through five years of age, under provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Services for three to five year-olds (ECSE) are provided under each state’s Department of Education; however services for birth to three year-olds can look very different. Oregon has what is described as a “seamless system” of service delivery, including all services under the Department of Education, rather than housing EI services under Mental Health or the Health department as is done in many other states.
There are many parallels between ESCE and school age Special Education services; children qualify for service under the same eligibility categories, and a team including the child’s parents and the professionals involved with the child meet together to design and periodically review a plan to address the child’s needs. The title of this document, known as an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) points out a paramount principle of EI/ECSE services —family involvement is key! Because we are dealing with a very young population, not yet in school, the focus of instruction is on development across all domains, including social, adaptive, cognitive, communication, fine and gross motor development. The law also requires that for children under age three, services must be provided in “natural environments”, most commonly the family home, or a community child care setting, as opposed to in programs designed specifically for children with disabilities. Early Intervention Specialists, or Therapists who work with families in their homes support them in understanding how to incorporate the child’s developmental goals into the natural routines of the household—dinnertime provides opportunities to work on communication skills of requesting, bath time or diapering is a natural place to interject identification of body parts or to do some simple range of motion exercises for a child with orthopedic impairments, and reading bedtime stories is primetime for early literacy and language skills. Both at home and in preschool or child care settings childrens’ self-chosen play activities and the daily routines also become vehicles for embedding instruction.
Josephine County Early Intervention Services offers many services to support families and their children with special needs. We have an assessment team, funded through contracts with Three Rivers School District and Grants Pass School District #7, which provides comprehensive evaluations to determine eligibility. Once eligible, and depending on their age and disabilities, children may receive any or all of the following services; family consultation and home visits, inclusive toddler groups, inclusive preschool classes, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, specialized Autism classroom and consultation, consultation and services in community preschools and Head Start classrooms.
So who are the children at Josephine County Early Intervention Services and what are their needs? We serve a variety of children from those with speech articulation delays to children with severe and profound disabilities. Over the past several years we have seen increasing numbers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and children with challenging behaviors often related to unresolved mental health issues. Several of “our kids” have been “your kids” as well, as we’ve jointly served children with hearing, vision and orthopedic impairments, and those with Autism. The majority of the families we serve though have children with general language or developmental delays for which there is no specific identifiable cause. Supporting these families in understanding, accepting and working to build skills in their children is an essential foundation of our work.
Another important population of kids we serve is those children without disabilities who are the typically developing role models in our toddler and preschool classrooms. One of our core values is to promote and support the inclusion of children with disabilities in our programs and in the community. Ask any Kindergarten teacher what the most important skills are for entering students, and most are likely to mention social skills such as sharing, negotiating conflicts with peers, following adult directions, focusing attention, and learning to wait for a turn or for the teacher’s attention, and knowing how to play and work cooperatively with other children. For children with special needs these are critical skills, and a focus of instruction in JCEIS classrooms. The best teachers of these social skills and communication skills are often the typically developing children who provide examples, challenge and motivation naturally within their play activities. Teachers in JCEIS classrooms spend a lot of time coaching and facilitating these interactions, as well as designing environments and activities that invite communication, social interaction, and cognitive and motor exploration.
To work in partnership with families,
- building relationships
- building skills
- and building the future
for children with special needs
is one that all of us at Early Intervention take very seriously. We are excited about the welcome we have received from everyone at SOESD, and about the possibilities that exist to include you in our efforts and to become part of your mission at the ESD.