A Step-By-Step Guide to Managing This Part of Their Move to Kindergarten
When children are getting ready to start kindergarten, their parents and guardians often worry.
“Will my child make friends?”
“Will she get lost in the building?”
“Will he remember his bus number when it’s time to come home?”
Families of children with special needs may wrestle with an extra worry:
“Will my child still get the help she needs when her early intervention services stop?”
As a school-based therapist, you’re in a unique position to help them.
When you evaluate early intervention (EI) recipients for therapy services, you’re helping determine how, not whether, rising kindergartners will get the resources and attention they need to succeed. Your recommendations can reassure parents the district is committed to their child’s success.
Here’s a step-by-step overview of what to expect when evaluating early intervention recipients. It’s based on the years of experience Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS) clinicians have getting each new class of kindergartners ready to realize their full academic and social potential!
Step #1 – EI Teams Meet to Plan for Kindergarten
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines early intervention as services to “expand opportunities for children under three years of age who would be at risk of having a substantial developmental delay.” Some states allow local education agencies to admit four-year-olds to kindergarten. But you’ll most likely evaluate students whose EI services are now district-provided special education and related services.
Before you work with the children, their EI teams must meet with their parents or guardians and the director of special education to plan the move to kindergarten. These meetings take place early in the calendar year—typically in February, between the second and third marking periods.
Participants review the services students currently receive and anticipate what they may need in kindergarten. Early intervention services and school-based services don’t share exactly the same criteria. Receiving one doesn’t directly correlate to the need for the other.
Step #2 – You Secure Permission to Evaluate Early Intervention Recipients
After these meetings, your special ed director should be able to give you a list of potential evaluations. You then need to send a letter or form to parents requesting permission to evaluate their child.
Depending on the child’s situation, you can use this document to request permission for:
- conducting a record review
- assessing the need for OT, PT, and/or SLP services
- administering tests in: academic/achievement; intelligence; social/emotional/behavioral skills
Don’t forget: You must have parents’ express, signed permission before beginning your evaluation.
Once parents grant their written permission, you have 60 calendar days to complete your report. For your planning purposes, think of April and May as the time kindergarten transition evaluations will fill your schedule.
Step #3 – You Perform Your Evaluations of Incoming Kindergarten Students
Choose Your Tools
Every therapist has her or his favorite frequently used evaluation tools.
For example, my go-to standardized test is the Beery VMI. It yields a visual-motor composite score as well as separate motor and visual perceptual scores, if necessary. These scores can indicate areas of need related to handwriting.
Evaluations may require you to review and record standardized scores, and you may find them useful. But they never do paint the whole picture! Reviewing student records—data from old early intervention evaluations, previous IEPs, progress reports, and so on—together with teachers’ and parents’ input and observational data is crucial.
The Schoodles School Fine Motor Assessment (SFMA) is a great tool for collecting observational data. It will help you make sure you’ve covered everything.
Other evaluation tools therapists often use include:
- Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency (BOT™) (PT & OT components)
- Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals® (CELF)
- Peabody Developmental Motor Scales
- Sensory Processing Measure™
- Test of Visual Perceptual Skills (TVPS-3™)
Choose Your Setting
Something else to remember: These students don’t currently attend your school. Where will you conduct evaluations?
I often schedule a time for the student to come to the school and complete the evaluation in my OT room. But that plan doesn’t always work! I do feel strongly seeing some students in an environment they find comfortable can elicit more accurate testing results.
Both approaches have pros and cons. Your school district may have a specific policy related to this issue, so always check with your special education supervisor!
Step #4 – Select Appropriate School-Based Services
I can’t stress the point enough: Students must demonstrate academic need to qualify for school-based services (OT, PT, SLP). Their identified areas of need have to impact their ability to succeed during the academic day.
When I’m looking at qualification, then, I’m relying on my trained clinical skills. I’m asking:
- Are the goals currently being addressed appropriate for carryover into kindergarten, or are they unrelated to academic skills?
- Do the student’s test scores fall within the standard deviation?
- Will the skills naturally taught in kindergarten address the student’s needs?
Let me expand a little on that last point with an example from OT. The Common Core written language production standards for kindergarten include such goals as:
- recognizing and naming all uppercase and lowercase letters.
- pronouncing vowels’ long and short sounds.
- understanding the spacing between words.
- knowing and printing the numerals 0-9.
Keeping these expectations for the kindergarten year in mind can help you determine if students will actually need OT services.
Students can receive school-based therapy services through two primary service delivery models:
- Direct services
Therapists work with students one-on-one or in small groups to address specific areas of need related to academic skills (fine motor skills, visual motor or perceptual skills, self-regulation skills, etc.).
- Consult services
Therapists collaborate with teachers and staff regarding in-class strategies, techniques, and tips to address students’ areas of potential need.
Recommend the delivery model best suited to the student’s needs.
Step #5 – Make Your Recommendations in Your Written Report
Writing your report is the last step in the evaluation process. Be sure it includes:
- testing results
- parents’ and teachers’ input (if included)
- student progress since previous evaluation or IEP
- student strengths
- student needs (if any identified)
- recommendations for the student’s transition to kindergarten
Remember, you could recommend direct and/or consultative services, or determine the student has no current need for school-based services.
After completing your report, send it to the student’s assigned school psychologist.
Work with PTS to Grow Your Career and Do More Good
Clearly, how you evaluate former early intervention recipients as they enter kindergarten and school-based special education and related services are critically important. Your observations and recommendations directly shape the support systems they and their families will experience.
Because your work in their transition to kindergarten is so important, we at PTS equip you and therapists like you to do it as well as you can! To find out more about how working with us is the best way to grow as a clinician and to do more good for young children, call us at 610-941-7020 or contact us online today.