Education: Children should be in inclusive environment

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Janice Stockman, Early Childhood Coordinator for Windham Southeast Supervisory Union, talks about early childhood special education, also known as EEE or "Triple E," on the episode seven of "Family Matters," the BCTV Cable talk show where we discuss topics of interest to families with young children.

EEE stands for Essential Early Education, and is the part of special education that serves 3- to 5-year-old children who have been diagnosed with a developmental delay in one or more fundamental skill areas, or who have been diagnosed with a medical condition which may interfere with learning and future success at home, in school and in the community. EEE uses developmental screening and evaluation to determine eligibility for services. Information from families and other providers who may have worked with the child if they participated in Children's Integrated Services Early Intervention (services for children birth to age 3 who have or may be at risk for developing a delay) may be used in this evaluation. If a child is found eligible for services, an Individual Education Program (IEP) is developed with educational goals and how those goals will be met in educational environment. Other related services are also identified in the IEP. These services may include speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and/or physical therapy. All services are provided in the community with children and teachers.

It is important to know that the goal is for children to be in an inclusive environment; having the supports they need to successfully participate in an environment where all children can be found. Services and supports happen through a variety of means, from helping a classroom use universal design, to implementing best practice with Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), to specialized instruction and identifying accommodations. Services are individualized and take into account the strengths and interests of the child, the context of the family, and a team determining what strategies will work best to support their development and achieve their goals. This team approach is essential for understanding the child in a holistic way, and thus improving their chance of success.

Special Education can be a daunting system for families to navigate, and there are resources available to help sort through the challenges. First and foremost, the staff at EEE is available to answer questions and help outline the process. If a child is participating in CIS Early Intervention and might be eligible for services after they turn three, the EI providers will help navigate the transition to EEE. Another excellent resource for information is Vermont Family Network (vermontfamilynetwork.org), which is the designated parent information center for our state. While its direct services do not extend to our region its web-based resources are accessible and informative. In addition, families often turn to each other for information and support. There are a variety of things that come up for families having a child with a developmental delay or medical condition, including that this is not what families planned when they decided to have a child. For all parents there are many joys along the path of discovering who your child is, as well as challenges. It is important for families to know that there are resources available to help figure things out. It is also important for families to understand that they know their child and are the best source of information about their child's strengths, abilities and challenges.

Chloe Learey is the executive director of Winston Prouty Center for Childhood Development in Brattleboro. You can watch episodes of Family Matters by visiting http://winstonprouty.org/


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