* K is for kindergartners with disabilities

kindergarten-555442_640Blogging A-Z: K is for kindergartners with disabilities.  I recently read an insightful article on early identification of disabilities.  “Hurry Up and Wait” was written by Cathy G. Litty and J. Amos Hatch and published in Early Childhood Education Journal.  In their article, the authors lament the changes which have taken place in today’s kindergartens.  This grade is no longer a setting in which kids merely achieve a smooth transition to school and become “gently” socialized.  The academic rigor of first (and even second) grade has been moved downwards for a number of reasons, they suggest, including the new standards-based accountability model.

Litty and Hatch argue that when teachers suspect a disability, they should not “wait and see” how a kindergartner progresses.  If these kids are going to be responsible for increased academic pressure, they are also ready for special education assessment and intervention.  While the authors do make suggestions for adapting kindergartens to meet a variety of needs, I agree that early intervention is key.  Locally, kindergartners are now expected to master letter-sound associations within the first third of the school year or earlier.  If they fail to do so, they will fall quickly behind their peers who arrived at school with those skills already developed.  Parents of some kindergartners also have reason to pursue special education identification when there is a family history of reading problems and speech/ phonological delays.

The last re-authorization of IDEA allowed states to determine whether and how to use a category called “Developmental Delay (DD).”  This label provides special education support when it’s not clear why a young child is falling behind.  But the variation of its use and criteria across states makes it an odd category.  I have seen the DD label used effectively with young kids but I also understand the mistrust and concern of some families about labeling.  Even while I support early intervention, we know that our schools over-identify black kids as disabled.  Can their parents trust us to make the right call?  And what a contrast that is to all the white families in our local district who want their kindergartners labeled!

Kindergarten is no longer a walk in the park.