Early Start

If you have any concerns about your child’s development (i.e., speech and language, walking or mobility, hearing, or vision, etc..), begin by having a discussion with your child’s pediatrician. While it is important to know that every child develops at a different pace, nobody knows your child better than you do.  If you feel as though aren’t being heard, contact your local regional center to request an evaluation for your infant or toddler.  

The Early Start (ES) program is California's early intervention program for infants and toddlers with developmental delays or at risk for having a developmental disability and their families. Early Start services are available statewide and are provided in a coordinated, family-centered system.

The Early Start program is not mandated. You do not have to participate in a services you do not feel your child will benefit from. Be certain you have made the decision after thoroughly researching the service/information or if there are other options. If the reason for declining service is because there is a barrier (i.e.  transportation, childcare, location) please discuss this with your Service Coordinator in writing.

More information about Early Start can be found at the Department for Developmental Services Early Start Information packet. Check it out here.

Special Education and IEP

The initial IEP is your introduction to the special education process. Before this meeting, your district may send you paperwork to fill out, request and review documents from previous/ current service providers, and formally assess your child. The school/district will contact you to schedule the IEP meeting. You are allowed to invite people that can support you in this process (i.e. Family members, service coordinators etc.). You should let your IEP team know who will be attending the meeting with you when you sign the meeting notice so that necessary accommodation can be made. You are also allowed to request assessment reports before the meeting. This will allow you to review and make note of concerns or errors on the reports before the meeting. If you need to record the meeting, you should notify your IEP team 24 hours prior to the meeting.

In the IEP meeting, School staff, parents, and other invited team members come together to discuss, develop, and review your child’s IEP. During the meeting, all the assessment reports will be discussed. You are encouraged to ask questions and contribute to the discussion. Your input is very important for the accuracy of these reports. Using the information from the report, the team will establish eligibility for special education and identify present levels of performance. The present levels of performance will guide the development of goals that your child will be working on for the next year. The goals will generate the services. Placement options, Inclusion, Accommodations, Modifications, and Assistive Technology are all part of the discussion for this meeting. Again, your input is very crucial at every step of this process.

Once, the meeting is completed you have the right to take the IEP document home to review it once again before signing it or you can sign the IEP there. Remember that you must sign the IEP document to start the services documented. If you disagree with any part of the IEP document, you can still sign in agreement with the components of the IEP except the part you are disagreeing on. This will allow you to start the services that you are agreeing with until you resolve your disagreement.  

Your child’s teacher should be your first person of contact. However, your child’s School Psychologist, Assistant Principal, related service providers such as Speech Pathologist, Case Carrier/Manager or Special Education Coordinators are all people that can help answer your questions. It is a good idea to have a list with all the names, titles, and contact information for the individuals that assist your child in his/her special education. This may change every year, so you must update the information annually.  

The Difference Between IEPs and 504 Plans

Both Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 plans can offer formal help for K–12 students with disabilities. They’re similar in some ways but quite different in others. This chart compares them side-by-side to help you understand the differences.