Child Find: What Parents Need to Know

What is Child Find?

Child Find is part of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA, Part C).  It requires states to identify, locate, and screen all children with disabilities, between the ages of birth to 21, who are in need of early intervention or special education services. States do this through all public schools in each state.

Child Find applies to all children who live in a state, including children who attend private schools and public schools, migrant children, homeless children, children whose families move often, and children who are wards of the state. It includes all children who might have a disability, including children who get passing grades and are “advancing from grade to grade.” The law does not require children to be “labeled” or classified by their disability.

How does Child Find work?

School districts run their Child Find programs in a variety of ways. Here are some examples:

Train teachers to recognize the signs that a student might need screening for a disability

Publicize information that tells parents about the benefits of screening and how to get their child screened

Offer workshops or other trainings to parents on screening, early intervention and special education

Early intervention is a free system of services and supports that help infants and toddlers from birth to age three who have a developmental delay or a disability. Special education is available from age three and up. Preschools and schools offer specialized teaching and related support services to meet the needs of each child who qualifies.

Should I bring my child to be screened for early intervention?

Yes, if you think he or she is not growing and developing like other children of the same age.  You can do this even if your pediatrician believes there is no cause for concern.  If there is a problem, your child will do better the earlier services are started.

If you aren’t sure if your baby or toddler is developing typically, you can use this resource to help you decide if your child should be screened: http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/milestones/

If your child is under age three, the local school district provides free screenings for that age group, usually at scheduled times. The screening is free. Or, contact your state’s Early Intervention program: http://ectacenter.org/contact/ptccoord.asp

What is the screening process like?

The screening checks development in 6 areas:

  • Physical skills (reaching, crawling, walking, drawing, building)
  • Cognitive skills (thinking, learning, solving problems)
  • Communication skills (talking, listening, understanding others)
  • Self-help or adaptive skills (eating, dressing)
  • Social or emotional skills (playing, interacting with others)
  • Sensory processing skills (handling textures, tastes, sounds, smells)

The screening uses typical play situations to check the 6 areas, like stacking blocks, drawing, counting, cutting with scissors, jumping, etc.  Screening time may take between 45 minutes up to 2 hours.

How will I know the results of the screening?

In some school districts, you will get an immediate report.  In others, you may have to wait for a letter.  If the screening shows a need for early intervention or special education services, you will get information on how to get those services.

What are the benefits of having my child screened?

You will find out if your child would benefit from early intervention or special education services.

Your child will receive services that help him or her develop in those areas where the screening showed he or she was not developing like other children, such as:

  • Physical skills (reaching, crawling, walking, drawing, building)
  • Cognitive skills (thinking, learning, solving problems)
  • Communication skills (talking, listening, understanding others)
  • Self-help or adaptive skills (eating, dressing)
  • Social or emotional skills (playing, interacting with others)
  • Sensory processing skills (handling textures, tastes, sounds, smells)

Early intervention services can include speech and language therapy, physical therapy, psychological services, home visits, medical, nursing, or nutrition services, hearing or vision services.

In most cases, services are provided in your home or perhaps a child care setting-the goal is for services to take place in the child’s natural environment. Occasionally a child may have to visit a service provider’s office.

Is there any cost for the screening?  What about costs for the services?

There is NO charge for a Child Find screening. There are NO charges for early intervention or special education services.

What if my child is age three or older?

If your child is age three and older, you can request a special education screening (called an evaluation) from the public school in your area. This evaluation is free.

What is the evaluation like?

This evaluation is given by a team that includes you (the parents), a teacher (preschool or public school teacher), a special education professional from the school district, someone who will explain your child’s evaluation results and tell you what type of special education your child may need, your child (if appropriate), and specialists who will give the evaluation “tests” (assessments) to your child.

The “tests” check how well he or she is doing in many different areas.  There are no right or wrong answers to these tests. The tests measure your child’s development and progress in the following areas:

  • Thinking (reasoning, abstract thinking, problem-solving)
  • Ability to understand spoken language
  • Ability to explain ideas and give information by speaking
  • Ability to understand facial expressions and body language
  • Ability to express themselves with facial expressions and body language (make a sad face, act scared)
  • Ability to tell different sounds apart, remember what they hear, and understand it
  • Ability to see differences in pictures and designs, remember what they see, and understand it
  • Physical skills
  • Getting along with other people
  • Reading, writing, math, spelling
  • Vision and hearing tests

The assessments will also include a chance for you to give the evaluators your child’s health history

Here is a link to a more detailed list of assessments: http://www.kcdsg.org/files/content/Assesments_chart.pdf

You will need to ask for a special education evaluation in writing.  Here’s a link to a sample letter: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/evaluations/evaluation-basics/toolkit-for-parents-sample-letters-for-requesting-evaluations-and-reports

How will I be informed of my child’s results?

The school will inform you in writing. A meeting will be scheduled with the team to develop a special education plan for your child.  This is called an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP.

A much more detailed look at the evaluation process for special education is available at If my child qualifies for special education, what types of teaching and services will he or she get?

Children ages 3 to 5 usually receive special education and related services at preschools run by a school district.  When your child is old enough to attend public school, special education and related services are provided at and through the school. All special education and related services are free.

Special education is specifically designed just for your child: it is “individualized” education. It gives a child the resources he or she needs to make progress in school.  Special education may take place with your child in the regular classroom, sometimes with a paraprofessional for support; sometimes it takes place in small groups or one-on-one with a teacher specifically trained to work with a child’s disability). Sometimes your child will learn in a classroom taught by a special education teacher who is trained to teach students with different types of disabilities.  Your child’s special education should be based on what he or she needs to make progress in school.

Each child receiving special education has an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP.  Parents, teachers, specialists, and the child (when old enough) develop this plan, and school personnel carry it out with your child.  Plans are updated on a regular basis or as needed.  For more information about IEPs,
go to Parent Center Hub

“Related services” aren’t education, but therapies and supports that are needed for your child to be able to benefit from their education.

Services can include speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, mental health counseling, training parents and children in positive behavior interventions, and even transportation to and from school and sometime to and from extracurricular activities.

What happens if someone else, like a child care provider or school teacher wants my child to be evaluated?

You will get a formal notice (a letter) for your permission to have your child screened for a possible disability.  You will have to provide your formal consent, usually by signing and returning a form to the agency or school district sending the letter.

Do I have to have my child screened?  What are my rights in this situation?

You do not have to give your permission for your child to be screened. If you refuse to give permission, you have the right to change your mind and ask for a screening/evaluation later.

It’s possible that the school district may ask you to take part in the mediation process, where they will offer their reasons for screening/evaluating your child, and you can offer your reasons for refusing. If after the mediation process you still refuse permission, the school district can begin a legal procedure called “due process” to allow them to screen/evaluate without your permission.

In practice, this does not happen very often. And the due process procedure may result in a decision that your child does not have to be screened/evaluated.

Remember:

  • Federal law requires public schools to find and screen children who may need early intervention or special education
  • Screening and evaluations are free
  • Early intervention and special education are free
  • You can ask that your child be screened or evaluated for early intervention or special education. You do this by contacting the public school in your neighborhood, even if your child doesn’t go to public school.
  • You, as the parent(s), have the right to decide whether your child gets evaluated for services.

If you’d like more information about Child Find, Early Intervention, or Special Education, feel free to contact us at PAVE: Partnerships for Action, Voices for Empowerment.

Phone: 1-800-572-7368 or email: pave@wapave.org