Does your preschooler have, or have they recently been diagnosed with a learning disability? It can be overwhelming to learn that your child may be facing struggles when they reach school age. No parent wants to see their child struggle. As your child approaches school age, there are Special Education Resources available to help them gain the skills they will need when they begin their formal education.
There are simple things you can do at home without any special training, there are local and online support groups for parents to share their worries, ask questions and learn what works in other families, there are local and online special education resources available to your child as well. You are not alone! Start with the following resources and gradually build up your stockpile.
Know Both Your Rights, And Your Child’s Rights;
Before you become formally involved with your local school system, take the time to learn your rights as a parent. Even if you plan to homeschool your child you should be familiar with the federal laws, your state’s laws and the policies of your local school district.
Start with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, known as FERPA. These are the rights of every parent in the United States with a child in the public school system. Additionally, each state has their own rules and provisions for children with special needs. Visit your state’s website to find out what these are.
Finally, make contact with your local school district well before your child starts school. Find out what services will be available and which schools offer these resources. Ask if the school system provides services to preschoolers with special needs. Children with certain documented disabilities are entitled to free preschool. If your child is already in an early intervention program ask them about the transition. If not, ask your pediatrician or check the Center for Parent Information and Resources site for more special education resources.
Understand Different Preschool Options;
For kids with special needs there are a variety of ways their needs can be met in preschool. Work with your school district, your doctor and your own instincts when deciding which is best for your child.
- Preschool specifically for children with special needs. Your child will receive therapies and other services. The potential downside is your child will not be in a class with children who do not have special needs.
- Traditional preschool is an option for many special needs kids. Generally, the state will assign a special education teacher to work with the preschool and make sure your child’s Individual Education Plan is being followed.
- Homeschool your preschooler. Many parents opt to keep their special needs child home for part or all of their education. They may still avail themselves of certain school services and special education tutoring. There are an ever-increasing number of special education homeschool resources available. Pinterest is a great place to start for ideas on preschool activities that are adapted to suit special needs.
Special Education Resources To Find Local Support;
No matter which preschool option you choose, the bulk of your child’s education and development is in your hands. Use internet searches, your pediatrician, and school contacts to find support in the form of play groups, parent groups, and other special education resources in your area.
- Start with one of your state’s Parent Training and Information Centers. These government funded centers provide information, training and other assistance to families of children with special needs. They can also point you in the direction of other local support groups.
- Finding a parent support group can be difficult. Find out if your school district has a Special Education PTA – if not, consider creating one. Forming such a group gives parents a way to connect and get organized in order to influence school policy. It also gives you a means of talking to others who understand your situation.
- While your child is in preschool, consider joining a local homeschool group – whether you plan to homeschool or not. Many offer weekly/monthly play groups or other activities. You’ll have a chance to meet parents with kids of all ages – some with special needs, some without. Find out what they do/have done at home that has helped their child.
- Again, even if it’s not your plan to homeschool your child, there are thousands of Special Education Homeschool Resources available that can assist when your child is at home. Even when children enter school, a majority of their time is spent at home. The more prepared you are to reinforce the curriculum your little one is being taught, the easier it will be for them to stay at grade level or far surpass their peers.
Special Education Resources To Find Online Support;
The reality of life as a parent is such that getting out is not always possible. If that’s you’re situation, look to the internet for the moral support, practical advice and empathy you need. The National Association for the Education of Young Children offers a great list of special education resources to get you started.
- Blogs can offer a glimpse into someone else’s life. There are many blogs written by parents of kids with special needs. Pick one or two which you can relate and visit them often. Participate in the comment section – you’ll be surprised at how quickly you get to know the author.
- Get specific. Search the internet, especially Facebook and Pinterest, for groups, blogs and activities aimed at your child’s particular needs.
- Don’t forget to play. Preschoolers learn best by playing. Find activities you can do together that are fun and that strengthen your child’s fine/large motor skills, sensory issues and other challenges.
- If your child is on the autism spectrum, pretend play, modeling behaviors and games that focus on the senses are amazingly helpful.
- If ADHD in one of your child’s challenges, games that help them focus for increasingly longer periods of time are important.
- Read, read, read. Take time to read to your child everyday. Preschoolers – with and without special needs – who are read to regularly do better in kindergarten.
Preschool is a fun, exciting time for you and your child. As you get to know your child even better than you already do, you’ll be in a position to determine which special education resources work best. For some that means homeschooling, for others it may mean traditional school supplemented with Special Needs Tutoring. Still others may end up using a mix of online, traditional and home education. It all boils down to what works best for you and your child.