PHILADELPHIA – Pennsylvania children at risk of falling behind their peers in preschool and kindergarten can get help to prepare them for school.
Early childhood education can give children a huge boost, educators say, but those with physical or developmental disabilities, who are homeless or have parents struggling with addiction, can be at a serious disadvantage.
In Pennsylvania, children are entitled to receive Early Intervention Services, such as speech therapy and specialized instruction, to help them prepare for their first day of school.
And Sean McGrath, an attorney at the Education Law Center, says that can make a big difference.
“There’s a study that has shown that children who receive early intervention, 40 percent of the cohort was actually caught up and did not need special education services once they entered school, compared to a control group,” he states.
Services are available for newborns and children up to age five. Parents who are concerned their children may need help can call 800-692-7288 to get connected to Early Intervention Services.
Any parent can ask for help, but McGrath points out that for younger children, referrals often come from county hospitals that note low birth weight and other possible indicators of the need for help.
“For older children there are fliers, advertisements in public places saying what Early Intervention is and providing the contact information for parents to share,” he explains.
School districts are also required to determine if more services will be needed when a child enters kindergarten and have those services in place on the first day of school.
McGrath adds many parents of eligible children simply don’t know that help is available.
“It’s important for parents to know that this is an entitlement, that they have particular rights in the Early Intervention system,” he stresses.
McGrath says early intervention has been shown to be one of the most effective tools to help children overcome developmental delays and disabilities.