Congress established the Part C (Early Intervention) program in 1986 in recognition of "an urgent and substantial need" to:
- enhance the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities;
- reduce educational costs by minimizing the need for special education through early intervention;
- minimize the likelihood of institutionalization, and maximize independent living; and,
- enhance the capacity of families to meet their child's needs.
Early start programs in California have historically provided services to infants and toddlers under the age of three who are "developmentally delayed" or have an "established risk" or are "at high risk" of a developmental delay.
The purpose of early education intervention is to lessen the effects of the disability or delay. Services are designed to identify and meet a child's needs in five developmental areas, including: physical development, cognitive development, communication, social or emotional development, and adaptive development.
Once an individual reaches the age of three many of the services they need to develop to their fullest potential will change from Part C to Part B of the IDEA 2004. Often the therapeutic and/or pre-academic programs they received through providers that were funded through their Regional Center from birth to age three will now be provided by their local school district.
Specialized therapy or programs that are necessary to mitigate a student's impediments to their education as defined by IDEA 2004 will be determined by the child's IEP team and defined in their IEP. Program placements can include participation in a neighborhood preschool program, a specialized preschool program provided by the school district, or any mixture of the two.
While there are many factors that go into a good educational program, having a team of educators that believe in the abilities of the student, have open minds and are willing to "think outside of the typical education box" are key. While there are many commonalities in learning styles of students with Down syndrome, there are also unique differences. What works for one student may not work for another. The willingness to try different strategies that can engage and educate the student may take time and effort, but it is worth it!
Current budget issues have led to proposals that would limit eligibility for entry and may alter the way services are delivered.
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