Columbia County schools offer three pre-kindergarten programs tailored to suit special-needs pupils.
"We provide services in a variety of settings," said Lisa Hill, the director of special services for the school system. "Our goal is to provide services in a natural environment."
Pre-K classes for qualifying 4-year-olds are offered at Greenbrier, Blue Ridge, Bel Air, Grovetown, Martinez and River Ridge elementary schools. The system also offers instruction for 3- and 4-year-olds at private day-care providers throughout the county and in-home services depending on the severity of need, Hill said.
"(The children) must go through the screening process and from that, eligibility will be determined," Hill said.
State and federal law requires students be screened to determine their level of development.
Pupils are screened in five categories: social and emotional development, fine and gross motor skills, adaptive behavior, cognition and communication skills.
Special needs includes pupils who are autistic; blind, deaf or have severe auditory or visual impairments; severe intellectual and/or physical impairments or other physically-limiting health problems; and severe behavioral disorders.
The pre-K program provides speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy, Hill said.
Hill recommends parents act quickly to get their child screened to determine their child's eligibility for special-needs classes and to find the program that is the right fit for them.
During the screen process, children also receive hearing and vision tests. Immunization, birth certificates and residency documents are not necessary at the time of screening, but are required to register children for services.
Children taught in county schools are eligible for busing, Hill said.
The system provides child screening twice per month. Parents of special-needs children who want to receive pre-K services through the school system can call the special services department at (706) 541-2700.
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