Pre-kindergarten pupils with possible developmental disabilities could be eligible for specialized services offered by Columbia County schools.
"We look at whether or not this child is actually functioning at their age level, because we're looking at it from a developmental standpoint," said Barbara Wilson, pre-school referral case manager for the school system.
After a child between the ages of 3 and 5 is referred to the school system, a screening is required, followed by an evaluation if needed, Wilson said. Children can be referred from a variety of sources in the community, including daycare centers, doctors and parents.
A screening is the first step in determining if a child is eligible for the school system's special-needs programs, Wilson said.
"If that screening indicates there's a possible delay, then we do a full evaluation, and that's how we determine if they're eligible," she said.
A team consisting of a pre-school special-needs teacher, occupational therapist, and speech and language pathologist conducts screenings in five categories: cognition, communication, self-help, social and motor skills.
This year, classes for qualifying pupils were offered at Martinez, Greenbrier, Belair, Blue Ridge, Grovetown and River Ridge elementary schools, Wilson said, adding that the schools offer school-based therapies, including speech, physical and occupational therapies.
The program is available for qualifying children with any type of developmental delay, which can include physical, vision and hearing impairments. Wilson said those within the department refrain from labeling children.
"The category that we use the most for pre-school age children is significant developmental delay," she said. "Parents are really concerned about their children being labeled so early."
Children can be served not only in a classroom setting, but also at other areas in the community, such as at a daycare center or at home. Wilson said the least-restrictive environment is chosen.
"It really depends on what the child's needs are," Wilson said. "We try to serve them in the appropriate setting."
If a child needs a vision or hearing screening, a nurse will be on hand to administer the tests. For information, call the school system's Special Services department at (706) 541-2723.
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