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Programs For Special Needs Children: Unlocking Their Acronyms

  special needs boy with momYou know that A is for apple and B is for banana. You teach your baby that C is for cat and D is for dog. So why is it be so confusing when we mix them all together? CPSE, EI, OSC, IEP — are we still speaking the same language?

   If you have a child with a suspected developmental delay, these foreign terms are likely to work their way into your vocabulary sooner than you think. While decoding these acronyms may seem like learning a new language, an accurate translation may hold the key to advocating for your child.  

   As you begin your immersion, it’s always a good idea — or IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) — to start with the origins. Special education as we know it today is supported by Federal legislation dubbed IDEA. It is from this act that children with special needs are afforded the right to a FAPE – which may sound like a new hybrid organic fruit but actually stands for Free and Appropriate Public Education.

   Once your ability to decipher this dialect improves, you are far less likely to imagine yourself on Old MacDonald’s farm when people start throwing terms like EI, IEP, and EIOD around. You’ll know, for example, that in the Early Intervention Program (EIP), you will be appointed an Initial Service Coordinator (ISC) who will help you through all the steps necessary to begin receiving EI services. This coordinator will facilitate the evaluation process and explain the eligibility criteria according to New York State’s definition of a developmental delay. Specifically, if your baby has not attained developmental milestones, an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) will be developed to address your concerns. This plan, specifically designed for you and your child, will be overseen by an Ongoing Service Coordinator (OSC) and approved by an Early Intervention Official Designee (EIOD). These representatives will not only lend support during this birth-to-3 program, but also help you to feel more prepared when, in the blink of an eye, your baby turns 3 and everything you finally became accustomed to is suddenly UNM (under new management; just threw that one in for fun!).

   It’s during these preschool years that you’ll find yourself assimilating into the CPSE (Committee on Preschool Special Education) culture. As you prepare to join this new world, you’ll begin by contacting your local school district, where a referral will be made in writing by you, the parent. You will then pass through the gateway of an MDE (Multidisciplinary Evaluation), where your child will be assessed for eligibility by your local school district’s CPSE. The evaluation must include a physical examination, a social history, a psychological evaluation, and an observation of the child in his natural setting, in addition to other appropriate assessments.

   Once these preschool screenings are completed and it is determined that the eligibility criteria set forth in the regulations is met, your child will be provided with special services through an IEP (Individualized Education Program) and will be classified as a PSD (Preschool Student with a Disability). This legal documentation of programming (the IEP) often resembles a pot of alphabet soup, including services such as PT (physical therapy), OT (occupational therapy), ST (speech therapy), and VI (vision services). It can also grant you access to special classroom placements such as SC (Special Class), SCIS (Special Class Integrated Setting), or SEIT (Special Education Itinerant Teacher). 

   This jargon-filled language may seem dizzying, but your understanding of these codes will help you, as a parent, better advocate for your child. Ultimately though, whether you are fluent in this phraseology or turning to the dictionary at every turn, the key is to remember that you are the most important person in your child’s life and you know your child best. Parents are usually the first to notice a problem, so if you have a concern about your child’s development, no matter how unfamiliar the road ahead, let your instincts be your guide.

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