- Submit a referral for your child to the Early Stages Center
- Evaluation Day & Determination of Eligibility
- IEP Team Meeting and Enrollment
Making a referral to Early Stages
It is easy to refer your child to Early Stages:
- You may refer your child by calling the Early Stages Center at 202-698-8037 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- You can also submit your referral via our online form HERE. If you submit a referral through the online system, a staff member will call you by the next business day. During your first conversation, a staff member will ask for some basic information about your child, including some questions about your child’s development.
- You can also download and fax a referral form to us at (202) 654-6079. To download the form, click HERE.
Another person who knows your child (such as a day care provider, doctor or family member) may also refer him/her through phone, fax or online. While we appreciate referrals from any party, an evaluation will not begin without the parent or guardian’s approval.
If your child is under 3 years old and is already involved in a special education program for infants and toddlers (Strong Start/DC Early Intervention), your case manager will refer your child for testing if needed.
Evaluation Day & Determination of Eligibility
An evaluation looks at how your child is learning and growing to see if s/he is eligible for services. The evaluation will occur only with your written permission. Evaluations look at these areas of development:
- Cognitive: Ability to learn and how he/she learns
- Physical: Ability to move, see and hear
- Communication: Ability to understand language
- Social or Emotional: Ability to relate with others
- Adaptive Skills: Ability to dress, eat and take care of himself/herself
After the evaluation you and the other members of the team will talk about what your child is doing and discuss any concerns. If there are areas of delay, your child may be eligible for services. You have the choice to receive or refuse these services. You may refuse one or more of the services and still receive the other services you want. Your input is very important. If you need a sign language interpreter, one will be provided for you. If you do not speak English, an interpreter will be provided for you.
What to expect at the evaluation
As part of the evaluation, we will assign a Family Care Coordinator to help you through the entire process. The Family Care Coordinator will contact you before the evaluation and will serve as your mentor and contact person.
Should your child need any treatment or services, the Family Care Coordinator will help you look at possible schools and classrooms for your child. They will make sure all the papers get to the school where your child will receive treatment or services.
The evaluation will last about three hours. First, you will meet with a Family Care Coordinator to discuss your child. At this time, please feel free to ask questions or bring up any initial concerns you may have.
Second, your child will go through a few tests. He/she will start with hearing and vision screenings. Then, a special educator will play with your child. Other experts will look at certain skills while they are playing, such as speech and movement. You will have the chance to watch your child while he/she plays, either from behind a one-way mirror or on video.
Third, the evaluation team will meet with you to discuss their findings. We hope that you will discuss any questions or concerns during this conversation as well.
Who will conduct the evaluation?
A group of experts will conduct the evaluation and review your child’s needs. They include:
- Hearing Specialist: The hearing specialist will have either a Master’s or Doctoral degree in audiology.
- Vision Specialist: The vision specialist will have at least a Bachelor’s degree with a specialization in the area of vision rehabilitation therapy.
- School Psychologist: The psychologist will have a Doctoral degree in Psychology.
- Special Educator: The special educator will have at least a Bachelor’s degree with coursework in special education.
- Occupational Therapist: The occupational therapist will have a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctoral degree in occupational therapy.
- Physical Therapist: The physical therapist will have a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Clinical Doctoral degree in physical therapy.
- Speech and Language Pathologist: The speech and language pathologist will have a Master’s or Doctoral degree in speech and language.
The IEP team meeting
An IEP team meeting is a formal discussion. During the IEP meeting, your family and the evaluation team will make decisions about your child’s education. You and your family are important members of the IEP team and your active participation is essential. At the meeting, you might establish for the first time whether your child has a special need. Or, you might learn whether he/she is eligible for special education. You will discuss what results you want him/her to achieve, and what treatment and services will be provided and in what amounts.
After the first meeting, the team will meet once a year to discuss your child’s progress and make any necessary changes. Before that time, your Family Care Coordinator will follow up with you to check in on your child’s progress. At the annual IEP meeting, you might decide that your child no longer requires special services. If so, you may decide to end the process. Every three years, the team will retest your child. However, as the parent, you may request testing at other times as well.
You must sign a consent form before special education and related services can begin. However, you may choose not to sign the IEP if you disagree with the provisions. You may also change your mind at any time and for any reason.
Who attends the IEP team meetings?
The group includes:
- At least one regular education teacher (if your child is involved in regular education)
- At least one special education teacher
- A DCPS representative (usually your Family Care Coordinator)
- An individual who can interpret test results
- Other experts, if you approve
- An interpreter, if you require one
- Your child, if appropriate
After the IEP team meeting
Unless there is a special circumstance, your child’s educational plan will begin as soon as possible after the meeting. You should receive a copy of the IEP documents and notice of the recommendations soon after the meeting. If you do not receive these papers or believe that the IEP has not been implemented properly, please call 202-698-8037.
What if my child isn’t enrolled in the public school system?
Your child is eligible to be evaluated whether he/she goes to a public school, private school in the District or is home-schooled.
However, once the evaluations are complete, there may be some differences depending on what type of school the child attends. Your child will be offered placement at your neighborhood public school with an IEP. If you decide to send your child to a different school, he/she may be eligible for an Individualized Services Plan (ISP).
IEPs are only for children enrolled in public school. ISPs, however, are similar. The ISP indicates the services the student may receive when he/she attends a private school or home school. These services may be less than the services your child would receive in a DCPS placement, but are still a crucial support in helping your child prepare for school and realize their potential
The process of determining whether a child qualifies for special education and related services is known as eligibility. If the team finds that your child is not eligible for more testing or services, they will give you a list of other organizations that can assist you in supporting your child’s growth and development. If you have any more questions within the next 30 days, you should feel free to call us back. Your Family Care Coordinator will also check in with you after six months and after a year to see how your child is doing.
If the team finds that your child needs more testing or services, they will discuss their recommendations with you. They will talk with you about your child’s needs and recommend appropriate services. This is the first part of creating an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that will provide your child the support he/she needs to succeed in school.