The Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) department at Special School District (SSD)
by Tracy Brangle, CCC-SLP, Instructional Facilitator, ECSE department
Our department is really proud of the services we provide to students and families in the ECSE department. With more than 350 staff members, we serve more than 1300 students, ages 3-5 years, in 14 school districts across St. Louis County.
Many students are referred to us by districts’ Parents As Teachers programs, an organization that provides information, support and encouragement to parents to help children develop optimally during the crucial early years (birth – 5 years) of life. Other referrals might come from First Steps, Missouri’s Early Intervention system that provides services to families with children, birth to three years of age, with disabilities or developmental delays. Students are also referred to ECSE by parents. Once a child is referred to our department, a multi-disciplinary evaluation is conducted, and if a child meets the state criteria, an Individual Education Program (IEP) is created.
At the early childhood level, most students qualify for special education services as “Young Child with a Developmental Disability” (YCDD). The areas under YCDD include: physical, cognitive, communication, social/emotional, and adaptive. The continuum of services we provide may range from itinerant services (e.g., a child’s parent brings a student in for speech therapy two times/week for 30 minute sessions) to intensive classroom services (e.g., a student receives services from many providers in a classroom setting four to five days/week).
There is ample research that shows Early Intervention (EI) works. EI can change children’s developmental trajectory by providing them with high quality interventions in the critical early years when most brain growth occurs. We know that services are more effective and less costly when provided earlier in life. More than 20 percent of SSD’s ECSE “graduates” go to Kindergarten without requiring continued special education services. In addition, EI results in less restrictive environments for students as they enter school-age programming and a decreased need for long-term special education services.
SSD’s ECSE department strives to build independence in all of our students to enable them to reach their fullest potential in preparation for kindergarten. Below are links to resources that families of students with disabilities may find helpful: