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Special Education Process for Children Ages 3–5

Children ages three to five are eligible to receive services in Howard County if they meet any of the following criteria:

  • Children who reside in Howard County and do not attend any preschool program
  • Children who reside in Howard County and attend a tax-exempt or approved preschool program in Howard County (as determined by the Maryland State Department of Education)
  • Children who reside in Howard County and attend a preschool program in Howard County that is not tax exempt or approved by the Maryland State Department of Education
  • Children who do not reside in Howard County but attend a tax-exempt or approved preschool program located in Howard County (as determined by the Maryland State Department of Education)

Phase 1 — Referral

The process of receiving special education services begins with a referral. A referral may be made by anyone who suspects that a child may have special needs, a delay in development, or a disability.

Children may be referred through the Child Find Program. Child Find may be contacted via:

  • Phone – 410–313–7046
  • Email:
  • U.S. Mail:
    Child Find Team

    County Diagnostic Center

    5451 Beaverkill Road

    Columbia, MD 21044

The Preschool Child Find Team is an interdisciplinary team that provides identification services to children from three to five years of age who may have a disability including developmental delay. The team includes an educational diagnostician, a speech-language pathologist, a psychologist, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, an audiologist, a pediatrician, and a nurse. Parents are important members of the team and are included in each IEP team meeting. The Preschool Child Find Team provides all services at no cost to the parent.

Phase 2 — Evaluation

Evaluation refers to the procedures used by qualified personnel to determine a child’s initial or continued eligibility, including determining the status of the child in each area of development and is a point in time.

The assessment reports are reviewed at an IEP team meeting and a written evaluation report is completed to determine whether the child has a disability. The evaluation report includes a summary of the child’s performance in each area of suspected disability; relevant functional, cognitive, developmental, behavioral, and physical information; and instructional implications for the preschool child’s participation in appropriate activities. The IEP team completes the evaluation of the child within 60 days of receiving the signed permission to test or 90 days from the date of the receipt of the signed written referral, whichever comes first. The parent is given a copy of the assessment reports, the Evaluation Report, and the IEP Team Meeting summary. For those children eligible for services, an Individualized Education Program is developed. Assessments are ongoing procedures throughout a child’s eligibility to identify the child’s unique strengths and needs, concerns, priorities, and resources of the family, and the supports and services necessary to enhance the family’s capacity to meet the developmental needs of the child

Phase 3 — Individualized Education Program (IEP)

If a child is determined to have a disability, an IEP is developed by the school staff with input from the parents within 30 days of the meeting to review assessment results. The IEP team reviews the IEP, identifies services needed to implement the IEP, and considers options for the provision of services in the least restrictive environment.