Nov 29, 2017

Getting Started When You Suspect a Disability

Son and mother share time together in front of bookcase

While one child loves to soar high on the swings at the park, another might cry out with apprehension when her feet leave the ground. A young toddler might love clapping and dancing to music while her friend is content to sit in her chair and listen quietly. These small differences may just be glimpses of budding personalities and preferences, but when parents begin to sense that their child learns differently from others, it's important to know where to start understanding and supporting those differences.

Children with special learning needs can often benefit from a number of therapies, and generally, the sooner they receive treatment, the better the outcomes will be.

But, how do you know if a child needs help?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires each state to implement early identification policies to locate and refer children who may have a disability to that state’s early intervention program. There are local and state resources available to help you assess the situation and identify any needs your child might have.


Disabilities sounds like a weighty and complicated topic. Is that really the right term for what is making your child seem different from others?

Maybe. But maybe not.

Regardless of what term you use, parents may find that getting a 'second opinion' or an evaluation of the differences they’re seeing in their child makes a significant difference in how they support her. Parents may request an evaluation of their child at any time, and that evaluation might look differently depending on the age of the child.

For example, if a child is in school, a parent’s path to an evaluation starts by opening a conversation with the child's teacher or with physician.

Parents of younger, non-school aged children can reach out directly to Grant Wood AEA to request an evaluation. Early ACCESS is the system implemented by the state of Iowa to serve children from birth to age three, who have either a developmental delay, or have a condition that has a high probability of later delays if early intervention services are not provided. Eligible children and their families receive service coordination to assist them in accessing the services and supports they need- a process that starts with a visit from AEA staff. The AEA also evaluates children ages 3-5 to determine if there is a disability which requires special education. Early childhood consultants support children ages 3-5 by helping teachers and support service providers identify developmental needs, deliver and coordinate quality early childhood special education programs.

Parenting is hard work. It’s helpful to know that your community is staffed with resources available to help- you just need to ask.