What is Developmental Screening?
Big PLANS for Little Kids partners with preschools and private kindergartens within your community who share a common philosophy regarding child development, discipline and building capacity for all children to enjoy a safe and enriching learning experience.
In September, parents of children four years of age are invited to fill out consent forms allowing their child to be screened by a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) and/or an Occupational Therapist (OT). Parents of age three children who are identified by a parent or teacher as having significant delays (or are not meeting developmental milestones as expected) are also encouraged to fill out consent forms for screening.
Children participate in 15-minute screenings with the SLP and/or an OT. Based on the outcome of the screenings, children who require further assessment are identified.
I found out that my child needs further assessment. What happens next?
After the assessments (by the appropriate specialist), applications for children who are eligible to receive PUF or MM funding are sent to Alberta Education. Children who would benefit from ELL support, and are four years of age, are identified by an SLP during these screenings and are then assessed by an Educational Coordinator. The DEADLINE for ACCESSING FULL-FUNDING is SEPTEMBER 28th of the current year.
Once Alberta Education gives funding approval, our therapists initiate therapy sessions with PUF, MM and ELL children and CDSs (Child Development Specialists) can begin working in the classroom setting.
Big PLANS is bound by contract to work within the school’s guidelines and must adhere to the wishes of the classroom teachers. Therefore, Educational Coordinators, therapists, and CDSs must work together with classroom teachers to create an effective program in the best interest of the child. A child who does not qualify for PUF will typically still qualify for MM funding and therefore, be seen by a therapist and Educational Coordinator, though therapy is less frequent than if s/he had received PUF funding.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The process of screening, assessment and funding approval can take up to one month of time. While our teams work as efficiently as possible to ensure the safety and best interests of the child, we WILL NOT hire any Therapists or Child Development Specialists for children before approval from Alberta Education. This policy is based strictly on financial limitations and guidelines that Big PLANS is given to work with throughout the school year. Age limitations do apply. If, for example, a three-year-old child does not qualify for PUF, a three-year-old CANNOT get MM funding. The team must wait a full school year to apply for Mild-Moderate funding.
Participating in Programming Provided by Alberta Education
Guidelines and Suggestions
It is essential to understand that once funded early intervention services have been recommended for your child, that the child becomes a registered “student” with Alberta Education. Typically this happens when children enter formal kindergarten programs within their communities; however, if they receive Mild-Moderate, ELL or Program Unit Funding (PUF) through Alberta Education, this process occurs earlier, when they are in preschool. Big PLANS for Little Kids is required to apply for an Alberta Student Number, and enlist your child in the provincial education system. As well, your child will receive the “code” necessary for Big PLANS to apply for the level of funding that is being recommended by your therapy team. In all instances, this code is removed from the child’s file once they enter formal elementary school. These codes exist only for the primary years to enhance the “early learning experience” through funded intervention.
It is also important to understand that the programming being offered is an Educational Program. Big PLANS follows the Alberta Education guidelines to provide programming within the structured preschool/kindergarten programs where children are currently registered. The child’s needs may dictate a specific area of concern or delay. The delay is detected through formalized screening and assessment offered at community preschool programs who have partnered with an Early Intervention Agency. Through this process and available funding, it is possible for delays to be addressed before formal elementary school with specialized services provided by a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), an Occupational Therapist (OT), a Physical Therapist (PT), an Educational Psychologist or a Behaviour Specialist. These services cannot and DO NOT occur in isolation from the preschool program. In other words, our team must collaborate and work WITH the staff of the preschool to work on goals and implement strategies that enhance the child’s learning. Big PLANS teams are required to generate and review an IPP (Individualized Program Plan) document for all children receiving services through our agency. We contract certificated teachers to create and monitor the child’s progress on the goals listed in the IPP.
The number of hours of direct service that you receive from a professional therapist may or may not be the same when compared to other children receiving services; however, Big PLANS completely trusts the professional judgment of all contracted team members. We trust their ability to judge the components and amount of programming a specific child will require throughout the year. Our experts, within their field of practice, determine the effectiveness of programming and then look to see whether the budgets suggested by the Director of Finance are approved. The Educational Coordinator then takes these recommendations and facilitates the team approach that your child needs for their educational needs within the classroom. A primary guiding question, that we utilize while creating the child’s IPP is: “How is the educational success of this child affected by the delays or deficits being observed at present?” Based on the answer to this question, we can appropriately design a program that addresses the child’s individual needs within their current educational setting.