Grandparents that are assisting their adult children with child rearing or raising their grandchildren may face a new challenge in understanding the early childhood assessment process. Some grandchildren that are in their care may need an early childhood education assessment for special education. There are grandparents that are unfamiliar with this process so this article will explore some hints to help grandparents have a smoother experience with the early childhood assessment process to determine special education for their grandchildren or young children in their care.
First, grandparents may need to familiarize themselves with the types of programs in their communities that provide early intervention services for young children. These early intervention programs start working with children who are very young and then help the grandparents make a referral to early childhood assessment clinics in the school district and community.
There are also grandparents who may need more intensive help and sometimes seeking the assistance of a social worker may help grandparents who need additional services and resources. For example, grandparents with hearing impairments or second language issues may want to request an interpreter for the assessment and eligibility determination meeting. There are also agencies that provide transportation for families who need help getting to the assessment. Grandparents may need to ask questions and find out about these additional community services that could help both the grandparent and the young child complete the assessment process more efficiently.
Second, grandparents will want to consider the child’s wellness on the day of the testing. There are times an appointment is rescheduled when the grandchild is sick and just can’t participate in the testing because he or she is not feeling well. Grandparents can help in encouraging the grandchild to be well rested and have a good night’s sleep before the day of testing. It is important for the grandchild to have a breakfast or at least eat something before participating in as much as three hours of testing. It is not unusual for young children to be ‘fussy’ when they get up much earlier than they are used to and have not eaten any breakfast. The child will be asked to complete a wide variety of testing tasks such as working with blocks, pointing to pictures, saying words, answering questions and even complete medical screenings with the school nurse. If the grandchild is well rested and fed they are more likely to be responsive in the day’s testing process.
Third, grandparents are often not prepared for the large amount of educational paperwork to be completed prior to the early childhood assessment. There are times grandparents forget to bring the child’s birth certificate to verify information and check the correct spelling of the child’s name. Grandparents often need to show custody papers if they are the legal guardian of the grandchildren. If the grandparents are simply helping the parents with babysitting (while the parents work) they may need to bring a note from the parent giving the grandparents permission to participate in the assessment (testing) process. Grandparents should not be afraid to request assistance if they have difficulty reading information or are visually impaired. There is often a staff member or someone available to help read and fill out educational forms. In addition, some school districts want the paperwork completed on a computer or electronic devise so grandparents may need to request help in this area as well.
Fourth, time issues may be big factors that impact the completion of the assessment. If grandparents want to speed up the day’s appointment at the assessment center it is really important to arrive a few minutes early. There are often a variety of clinicians (school psychologist, speech therapist, school nurse and teachers) with many scheduled appointments throughout the day. Running even 15 minutes late can throw all the appointments off schedule and even cause the grandparent to reschedule an appointment if the grandchild misses or is late for the first appointment. If the grandparent needs to rush to work and the assessment cannot be completed, the last appointment may need to be rescheduled. Rescheduling appointments in very busy school district assessment centers can take weeks to reschedule and delay the opportunity to complete testing and possibly impact their educational services and placement of the young child in an early childhood special education program.
Grandparents may need to be aware of how long it takes to arrive at appointments. A grandparent taking bus transportation to the testing center may need an extra hour or so to get to the testing center or clinic. Sometimes just assisting a young child with dressing, preparing a diaper or changing bag and snacks before the assessment takes longer than expected. For example, a young child using a walker may take a longer time to get across the parking lot from the car to the assessment center. Time issues seem to be a really big factor in helping the early childhood assessment process to run smoothly.
Grandparents often are a wonderful support for grandchildren and families in attending and completing the early childhood assessment process to determine if there are delays or a need for special education services. Any support for the young child that helps him or her feel good about going to a new place and working with unfamiliar adults will help the child feel more comfortable about the testing experience. Sometimes just simple things such as having a good breakfast and rest can go miles in helping the child adjust to a new situation and different surroundings. Grandparent support is essential and helpful in completing the assessment of the young child and making future educational decisions for grandchildren and children in their care.