Q&A: Early Childhood Special Education
10/14/20 Facebook Live
Gary Smith, Early Childhood Education
Jen introduced herself and her position as Director of Family Engagement with The Arc Tennessee
Jen introduced Gary Smith as Director of Childhood Education and Special Education and invited people to leave any questions he or she may have regarding Early Childhood.
Gary introduces himself
Gary: As the Director of Special Education. I am with a team. Our team focuses on meeting the needs of children ages 3-5 with a disability. Our program serves as bridge of Tennessee Early Intervention System. This helps children transfer to local education agencies, such as kindergarten.”
Jen:” How long have you been in this role?”
Gary: “7 years”
Jen:” What are the biggest changes you’re noticing in Early Childhood during the time of COVID-19?”
Gary: “Some of the challenges, is it varies on so many levels district by district. There are limitations of engagement opportunities between the children. We are missing out on some key areas like peer interaction”.
Jen: “How are schools adjusting/What are some bright spots?”
Gary: “It’s been hard on everyone. We are seeing resilience from teachers and families. A particular area of growth is a larger number of people seeing how to use technology”.
Jen: What is your advice on preparing my child for the transition between TEIS into school?
Gary: “I’d say you know your child. Share information with the school district on what works with your child. The more accurately you can describe your child, the more accurately the IEP team can develop an effective IEP. Talk to your child, use puppets, reassure them. Be positive and may also want to ask school staff.
Gary: As part of TEIS the school should have a transition planning conference. This typically happens between 9 months and 90 days prior to the child’s third birthday. This is something TEIS in coordination with the school district will schedule with the child’s parent.
Jen: “How does this transition look different this year? What should I expect?”
Gary: “One of the biggest challenges is there are components on the Eligibility Determination
process that districts haven’t been able to do. They must do a comprehensive evaluation.
These must be done in person, but it has been challenging due to COVID. Encourage parents
to be in regular communication with the school district.”
Jen: Who should I talk to if I have concerns about my child starting pre-K? Do I reach out to my TEIS services coordinator or the school?
Gary: Those conversations should take place with the school staff. They can talk more about the options they have available. They can work on plans that may work best for your child.
Jen: Can you explain a little bit about Least Restrictive Environment and what that means especially now when some students are required to be remote?
Gary : Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) means that each child should be educated to the maximum extent appropriate. In an environment with children who don’t have a disability. Individuals Disability Education Act (IDEA) indicate a general education setting should always be considered as the first option. Placing the child in a separate classroom should only happen if that child’s disability even with aids is not enough to provide an appropriate education in the general setting.
LRE should also include where the services will be provided to each child. We want Speech, OT, and PT and services to take place in the setting where it will be meaningful to children in the general education classroom. Research shows that general education setting can give children a greater opportunity for success.
Jen: If my child is turning 3 this year but I’m concerned about putting him in school in-person, what should I do? Can I wait to enroll him?
Gary: The first area of focus really is working with the school district with the Eligibility Determination process and the development of the IEP. If it does involve a placement. The child should have a Free Appropriate Education (FAPE) Free-, no cost to parent, Appropriate- determined on individual basis for each child, public- local school system, Education- hitting that educational component. Once the IEP has been developed that meets FAPE and LRE, then the team can discuss distance learning plan. The focus should still be focused on meeting IEP goals, even if on a virtual platform like Zoom.
Jen thanked Gary for joining, and the FB live ended.