Pre-Schoolers/Developmental Delays

Children who do not meet developmental milestones of one kind or another may need to be evaluated for a developmental delay. Early intervention and screening programs for children birth to 3 years of age are available through local government services on a sliding scale (“PIE” or “ITC”). Parents may refer their own children or a referral can be made by an educator or doctor if there is a concern. Screenings and services are also available free through the public schools for children ages 2-5 (“Child Find”). These two programs overlap between the ages of 2 and 4. Families may obtain assessments through either program. However, they may receive services through only one program. In some circumstances, it may be more advantageous to select the public school program, particularly if the child could benefit from a special education preschool program.

Listed below is the contact information for agencies in Arlington County, Fairfax County, and the City of Alexandria.

Arlington

For children up to age 3, call the Parent-Infant Education Program (PIE) at 703-228-1630. More information is available online at https://health.arlingtonva.us/public-health/health-clinics-services/parent-infant-education-program-pie/.

For children ages 2-5, call Child Find at 703-228-6175. More information about Child Find is available online at https://www.apsva.us/child-find/.

Arlington Public Schools provides a number of services to children found eligible for services through Child Find: resource support, preschool placement through VPI (Virginia Preschool Initiative), placement in a special education preschool program, or placement in “Mini-MIPA” which is an enhanced preschool classroom for children with moderate to severe autism.

Fairfax

For children up to age 3, call the Infants Toddler Connection (ITC) at 703-246-7180. More information is available about ITC online at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/csb/itc

For children ages 2-5, call Child Find at 571-423-4121. There are 3 intake centers for Child Find in the Fairfax County Public Schools. More information about the centers is available online at http://www.fcps.edu/dss/sei/ecids/process.shtml

Fairfax County Public Schools offers three types of supports for children who are found eligible for services through Child Find: resource support, class-based support, and a preschool autism program known as PAC.

City of Alexandria

For children up to age 3, call the Parent-Infant Education Program (PIE) at 703-746-3363.  More information is available online at https://www.alexandriava.gov/dchs/childrenfamily/default.aspx?id=50246

For children ages 2-5, call Child Find at 703-578-8217.  Coordinator Jane Richardson can be reached by telephone at 703-619-8441 or by email at jane.richardson@acps.k12.va.us. Coordinator Donna Marsh can be reached by telephone at 703-619-8443 or by email at donna.marsh@acps.k12.va.us. More information about Alexandria Child Find is available online at http://www.acps.k12.va.us/curriculum/special-education/preschool/. You can also email one of the coordinators at

Private Evaluations

Evaluations can also be carried out privately the cost of which may be covered, in whole or in part, by insurance. This is an option that many parents choose. There are many different kinds of specialists, which can be bewildering for parents new to these issues. For an article listing the types of specialists commonly needed to evaluate and treat a child with a developmental delay, see Who’s Who. It is worth noting that there can be lengthy waiting lists for some specialists in the DC Metro area.

When parents are concerned about their child’s development, testing can be reassuring. Sometimes there is no developmental delay. For some children, the delay can disappear with the passage of time or with appropriate therapies. For still others, evaluation will lead to a diagnosis of some kind. Since 2009, Virginia regulations have required that all children age 7 or older receiving special education services be identified as having a specific disability. 8VAC20-81-60(M). The list of disabilities is available on the Virginia Department of Education website at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/special_ed/disabilities/index.shtml. The selection of the category is carried out by the assessment group, as required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and related Virginia regulations. Agreement on the particular category that applies to the student requires the consent of the parent. The need to categorize the child as having a specific disability often drives the need for a new eligibility process and updated testing when the child is 6 or turning 7. More extensive testing may also be required at this time to obtain a better picture of what services may be needed for the child as the child matures and school becomes more demanding. Some parents opt to pursue private testing at this time.

Many children with developmental delays are identified when they are toddlers or in preschool. The incredible developmental advances that typically occur between the ages of 2 and 7 are very significant, and thus the reliability of testing may depend upon how recent the testing was carried out. Also critical are decisions about the scope of testing and which tests or screenings to select. For example, if a psychologist chooses the wrong screening form, or omits a parent checklist required by “best practices,” the screening results can be wildly inaccurate. A full array of testing at this age typically includes a medical screening (e.g. hearing and vision tests or genetic testing if not previously done), standardized tests for psychological and educational testing, speech and language testing, testing for motor skills, and a sociocultural assessment. The process is time consuming and emotionally draining for many parents. Test results can be used to provide the basis for developing an individualized education plan and provide the services a child may need to be successful at school. If the evaluation results in a finding that the child is not eligible for special education or related services, such a speech language therapy or occupational therapy, a child with a diagnosed disability may still be able to obtain accommodations under the provisions of section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.