Before your child can receive preschool special education services, the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) must decide whether your child meets the "eligibility criteria" under New York State law. Parents may be told their children are not eligible for services even though they are eligible under the law.
In order to be eligible for CPSE services your child must Exhibit a significant delay or disorder which adversely affects the student's ability to learn. Such delay or disorder shall be documented by the results of the individual evaluation.
Accepted milestones for child development are as follows:
- A 12-month delay in one or more functional area(s); or
- A 33 percent delay in one functional area, or a 25 percent delay in each of two functional areas; or
- If appropriate standardized instruments are individually administered in the evaluation process, a score of 2.0 standard deviations below the mean in one functional area, or a score of 1.5 standard deviations below the mean in each of two functional areas; or
- Have one of the following: Autism; hearing impairment; visual impairment; orthopedic impairment, other health impairment or speech and language impairment.
The CPSE can offer a variety of services. They generally include home or school-based 1:1 special education teacher services (SEIT), related services (such as occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, or counseling), an inclusion program (a class with typically developing children and other children with special needs) or, a program or class that provides educational services only to children with special needs. Other services may also be available, such as toilet training and assistive technology (devices and services to help children speak, listen, learn, be mobile and/or engage in daily living activities). If your child needs them, you may also be able to obtain a school-based program and a home-based teacher for after school hours.
In New York State, the CPSE service window ends when children turn five, at which point they "transition" into the Committee on Special Education (CSE) which is then responsible for the student through the rest of his or her school career.
Depending on where you live, the transition may be smooth or very difficult.
In New York City, a students may lose a significant amount of services when they are transitioning or be placed directly in special classes that are completely segregated. In particular, children lose their SEIT and often have their speech, occupational and physical therapy terminated or reduced.
There are many complex issues to consider when your child is transitioning. The best course of action is to consult an attorney who can explain your child's rights during transition in detail.
In New York, each school district's Committee on Special Education (CSE) is responsible for evaluations and recommending services. In New York City, however, due to frequent reorganizations, the process keeps changing. Still, even in New York City, the CSE is responsible for special education.
If you want your child evaluated, you should submit a written, dated request to the district's CSE or, if in public school in New York City, the school's team. You should keep a copy for yourself, and send the request by certified mail or federal express. If you believe your child needs evaluations in particular areas, or your child has already been diagnosed with a disability or medical condition, you should provide that information to the CSE, and bring or send related documents or reports to the CSE.
We often hear stories of parents who are told that school teams are too busy to do an evaluation, or who never hear back from anyone at their CSE after submitting a request. This is not legal.
In New York, school districts have 30 days to complete the evaluation following your consent, and 60 days to develop a recommendation. It is possible, however, that a parent may get the process to move more quickly in an emergency. After the initial referral and evaluation, school districts are supposed to reevaluate children no less than once every three years.
After the evaluation process is complete, the CSE is supposed to convene an IEP meeting. You should be given copies of all of your child's evaluations as soon as they are finished, and well before the IEP meeting, so that you know what information is going to be considered at the meeting. At the meeting, the CSE must fully consider these evaluations, and provide services according to your child’s specific needs.
There are many substantive and procedural rules that the CSE must follow when evaluating your child and providing s/he with services. If you think that your child's school district may be out of compliance, you should seek the advice of a professional.