Understanding Early Childhood Special Education

Many parents of young children spend a great deal of time and energy educating themselves on developmental milestones as well as encouraging their children to meet milestones. Milestones are designed to give parents and caregivers some guidelines that indicate if a child is progressing naturally with physical, mental, and emotional development. However, each child develops at a different pace. Not reaching milestones may be a sign that early childhood special education is necessary, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, a child simply has not been provided with the stimulation and opportunity in his or her environment to develop certain milestones. Parents and caregivers who have concerns should seek guidance and advice from a medical professional.

What Is Special Education?

If a medical professional diagnoses a child with certain conditions, he or she may be considered special needs. Some of the many conditions that a special needs child may be diagnosed with include:

• Autism
• Asperger Syndrome
• Sensory Processing Disorder
• Dyspraxia
• Verbal Dyspraxia
• …and numerous others

It is important to seek a diagnosis of these conditions early. Early childhood education programs are available that are designed to help children with special needs get the educational, emotional, and physical stimulation they need to grow and develop at their own pace. Many of these programs are developed and learned in various early childhood education courses in post-secondary schools.

When to Seek Assistance

Early Childhood Special Education - ECE Teacher with Special Ed Student

An ECE assists her special education student

Parents and caregivers who notice their children are not progressing and meeting milestones within the time frame of milestone guidelines should schedule an appointment with the child’s medical practitioner. In many cases, concerns about development are not a cause for concern. However, early intervention can help the child enjoy the best outcome and can promote greater development. A child’s doctor may recommend seeking out early childhood programs that are best suited to meet the child’s unique condition. A medical professional may also encourage enrolment in a special education preschool or other learning center that is most capable of providing the child with a stimulating and nurturing environment. It is important to note that the Disabilities Education Act, which became law in 1990, provides early childhood special education opportunities to children with certain disabilities and disorders.

Working With Special Education Professionals

Parents and caregivers of special needs children should seek special education early in the life of their children to promote the best outcome for child development. However, it is important to note that learning should continue on at home as well. There are numerous opportunities throughout a day when children and caregivers can work with special needs children at home, and these efforts can enhance the learning and development experience a child is enjoying and benefiting from at school or in a special needs program. Parents and caregivers should consider speaking to their children’s teachers and special needs providers regularly to learn what goals have been set for the child and to get tips and advice for working on these goals at home with the child. A cohesive, united approach to caring for and educating special needs children is important.

Early Childhood Special Education Career Opportunities

Many people today are making the decision to start a career in special education, and particularly in early age special education. There are numerous career opportunities that such a professional may enter. Special needs programs are available through public schools, public and private organizations, hospitals and medical centers, and more. Some careers allow an individual to work with children in a hands-on environment and others are research-oriented or administrative. It is important for professionals who desire to work in this field to first pursue an education degree with a specialization in special needs education. Many individuals who hold a special education degree will start a professional career but will also continue to earn ECE units through distance learning, night school, and other methods so they can advance their career.

Caring for a child who has been diagnosed with a physical, mental, or emotion disorder and who is need of special needs care and education can be a challenge. These challenges may be in place for parents and other caregivers as well as for educators, too. One of the best things a parent or caregiver can do for the long-term benefit of a special needs child is to promote early childhood special education. Various opportunities for special education are available, and it is advisable to work with a medical practitioner to explore the options that are best suited for the specific child. Parents or caregivers who have specific concerns about a child’s development should seek a diagnosis today, as early intervention and care can yield a better outcome for the child.