Whether you evaluate preschoolers incoming from early intervention programs as a surprise emergency substitute or you do them every day, there are certain considerations that you may not have thought of for the EI to school transition. I’ve performed incoming preschool evaluations for 4 school corporations (from rural to inner city and in between) and each one has done things differently. I’ve also served as an early intervention therapist in peoples’ homes (again, rural to intercity and in between!). So while some of these may seem like “no brainers” for some folks (like me!) new realizations are popping up daily.
Where the referral came from can matter. Parent buy-in means a lot, across the board, but the emotional context of being referred to special education can really color a situation. Did they have a positive EI experience or a tough one? We’ve all seen the power of a reassuring word and sometimes extending some kindness when an evaluation is first scheduled (and generally feeling out the temperature) can help decrease cancellations and make the experience more pleasant and more efficient for everyone.
Contact the EI therapist team. Early interventionists might know more than they are putting on paper. They’ve been in the home on a fairly regular basis and they’ve probably got the details. Sometimes time constraints (surprise!), agency formatting, or the simple fact that the parents receive a copy may affect the information in the report and how it is phrased. Not to mention that “no one reads this” discouraged mindset we can get into sometimes. If you want the scoop, feel confident contacting that team, and learn helpful things like “will scream until vomits” or “she thinks her name is baby” or “parents are starting to question ASD.” Whether it's little quirks or more serious topics, most of the EI professionals I have worked with would love to be thought of as a resource during this important time. It can be worth the effort to dig up that email.
Preschool kids test differently. They don’t always get excited about the things elementary kids get excited about. Who knew that as a preschool program SLP I would have an excess of unwanted stickers? They can panic when separated from mommy or when the headphones for a hearing screening come too near. Play based assessments are great, especially if your corporation gives you sufficient testing time because rushed play just doesn’t feel like play. Even not yet three year olds are way too smart for that! The average I have seen for academic, developmental, and speech/language testing has been 2 hours with a team of two or more evaluators. Be confident advocating for the time and tools you need.
Bring your fun, your flexibility, and enjoy the privilege of participating in one of those big life transitions.
Author: Amanda Owens, MA, CCC-SLP