A growing debate across the country, and especially in New York State, is the desire for Universal Pre-K programs. Studies have shown that the sooner you get all children into schools and excited about learning, the more likely they are to succeed.
Since many children come into kindergarten with different backgrounds, Pre-K helps to level the playing field for many. Of course, children with special needs could also benefit from the implementation of Pre-K.
Early Intervention is Key
Parents of children who have special needs know that early intervention is crucial. The younger a child is when they begin therapies, the more beneficial those therapies will be. Right now in New York State, children who are being serviced by Early Intervention services from their counties are able to transition to CPSE (Committee for Preschool Education) and have an IEP, if they qualify. Some children will then be able to be placed into Pre-K programs the year before they begin kindergarten. The problem is that the majority of these programs are not within schools or run by the district. There are few choices, and many children have to go wherever there is an opening.
The Benefits for Children and Therapists
Universal Pre-K programs would be funded by states and run by school districts. This means that every child, including those with an IEP, would be given academic opportunities that would work on cognitive, social, emotional, and physical growth. More classrooms would be open to help special needs children to be in the least restrictive environment for their needs. In addition to this, many children would be able to form relationships with therapists that could continue working with them for longer periods of time. If they are certified in multiple age levels, they could continue servicing children into kindergarten and beyond.
Consistency is important for all children, but especially for children who have special needs. Across the country, many will be weighing in on whether or not Universal Pre-K is something that state funding should be committed to. Those who work as therapists in schools will recognize that this is something that could potentially be life changing for those children with special needs.