When a child turns three, the public schools are required to provide special education and related services to eligible children. If your child has a disability and has been determined to be eligible, he/she can receive special education and related services in kindergarten. The laws are meant to make sure that young children with disabilities are provided a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) that meets their individual needs. (Special education services for very young children – up to age three – are provided through Connecticut’s Birth to Three System.) Early childhood special education and related services like speech/language, occupational, and physical therapies are required by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for all eligible three-, four-, and five-year-olds.
If you have concerns about your child’s development, you can contact your local school district and request a free developmental screening and/or diagnostic evaluation to determine if he/she may have a disability and may be eligible for special education and/or related services.
General recommendations for successful transition to kindergarten may be even more important for children with disabilities.
The recommendations for a successful transition to kindergarten that are made throughout this toolkit are recommended for all children but may be even more important for children with disabilities given their special needs. Those general recommendations include the following.
- Attention to the transition should begin at least a year before kindergarten and be a gradual and ongoing process.
- Families should be involved in all activities leading up to and throughout the transition.
- You and your child should have opportunities to visit the school, the classroom, and meet the teacher, principal, and other school staff. These activities should be planned to meet your child’s needs. For example, doing everything at once, might be too stressful or overstimulating and should perhaps be spread out in a gradual way that would be more comfortable for you and your child.
The Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center (CPAC) is a statewide nonprofit organization that offers information and support to families of children with disabilities or chronic illness. The Center is committed to the idea that parents can be the most effective advocates for their children. CPAC is an excellent resource for information on special education law and much more.