Children with cerebral palsy are at risk for learning difficulties or intellectual disability. There are many children with CP, though, who do not have any learning difficulties. There are many resources to help you and your child in this area. One such program is Help Me Grow/Early Intervention. This is a program for children birth through 3 years who have been identified as having developmental delays or are at risk for being delayed. This is a program that is operated by every county and the services provided vary from county to county. Help Me Grow can help link your child with therapy either in your home or at a therapy center depending upon the resources in your county. You will also be assigned a Help Me Grow Service Coordinator who can help educate you regarding services in your area and also provide you with information on any child development questions you might have.
Once your child turns 3, they no longer qualify for Help Me Grow services. Make sure that your Help Me Grow Service Coordinator transitions you to “The Board of Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities” (MRDD) in your county. Along with a Service Coordinator, MRDD has many programs that can help you and your child.
When your child turns 3, the school system becomes responsible for providing your child with the appropriate therapies and education your child requires to participate to their full potential in the educational system. Each school system is mandated by law to provide education to children with special needs when they turn 3. Every school system has a special needs preschool program for those children who qualify. Children can be referred to this program by family or professionals. The child will receive a “Multi-Factor Evaluation” (MFE) to determine eligibility. Once the child is deemed eligible for the program, educational goals need to be established for the child.
The parent(s), along with school personnel, meet together to review the results of the MFE and to then develop an “Individualized Education Plan” (IEP). The IEP lists the educational goals for that child for the school year. The preschool program provides all appropriate therapies within the school setting. The IEP is updated every school year, or more often, if the child’s needs change.
Your child will remain in the special needs preschool until it is time to transition to Kindergarten. The IEP will help make this transition smooth so that the elementary school is aware of your child’s needs and can provide the appropriate accommodations.