Services before kindergarten

Special Education services are for kids from age 3-22.

If your child qualifies, they can get support from the school system even before they start school.

Text alternative for What can Special Education offer infographic: For children over 3 years old who are not yet in kindergarten, the school system may be able to offer at-home therapy to help with things like speech, coordination, emotions, and behaviors; access to special pre-school programs,; playgroups to help get used to group activities; and specialized instruction in their preschool.

Different kinds of therapy

When we talk about therapies for children with developmental disabilities, we don't mean just psychological counseling. There are many types that address developmental skills.

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If your child has trouble with development, there are different types of therapies that can help.

These can build skills like communication, using their hands and bodiesbuilding good relationships and managing challenging behaviors.

This list includes the most common ones, but there are others.

Types of therapies:

  • Behavioral Therapy: Uses positive reinforcement and an understanding of each child's learning and motivation.  It has been shown to be very effective in helping kids to learn new skills and positive behaviors. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is one of the most common ones for kids with autism.

  • Developmental Therapy (DT): Uses relationships and play to support all areas of a child's development: cognitive skills, language and communication, social-emotional skills and behavior, gross and fine motor skills, and self-help skills. RDI, SCERTS and DIRFloortime are examples of Developmental Therapy.

  • Speech and Language Therapy: Helps with communication skills at all levels.  It addresses both verbal and non-verbal ways to communicate.

  • Occupational Therapy (OT): Helps with fine motor coordination--using hands and fingers to do things like hold onto a toy, use a spoon, or write with a pencil. More broadly, supports motor, cognitive and emotional skills needed for the things children do, like play, academic activities, self-care (such as eating and dressing) and social engagement.

  • Sensory Integration Therapy: A type of OT, which helps kids adapt to sensory experiences that may be hard for them, like the feel of clothing, noisy environments or being held.

  • Physical Therapy (PT): Helps with large muscle movements (gross motor coordination), like sitting, crawling and walking.

You and the school team will develop a specific program that describes the services your child needs. Remember, these are just some examples!

If your child is in preschool and needs some therapy, they can usually get this at preschool if that works for you.

Sources: The Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD),  Autism Consortium, Early Intervention Specialists

Every child has a right to a free public education that meets their unique needs. It's the law.

Sources: Federation for Children with Special Needs, MA DOE, Casey Family Programs

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