According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2004), state and local education agencies are obligated to locate, identify, and evaluate all individuals ages birth to 21 years who may be in need of special education services and supports. Past research suggested, however, that disparities exist between the percent of children who demonstrate needs and those who participate in special education (e.g., Boyle et al., 2011). This indicates that child find referral mechanisms may not be effectively functioning to locate all children in potential need and suggests that examining the influence of referral mechanisms on receipt of special education may provide important information for improving practices and upholding the law. During preschool, four common child find referral mechanisms exist to aide in the identification of young children with special needs. These include referrals that result from early childhood screening, well-care visits, early childhood education providers, and parent knowledge of development. The purpose of this study is twofold. First, I aimed to understand if the disparities between special need and special education participation are observed during preschool. Second, I examined the extent to which involvement with one of the common child find referral mechanisms predicted participation in early childhood special education among a nationally-representative sample of preschoolers with special needs born in the United States in 2001, using multivariate logistic regression of data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Birth Cohort. Findings indicated that 20.9% of preschoolers included in the sample demonstrated special needs, while only 5.9% of participants received special education services during preschool. Attendance at well-care visits and parent knowledge were not significant predictors of early childhood special education participation after controlling for ecological covariates; however, attending early childhood screening and any form of early childhood education significantly increased the likelihood that preschoolers with special needs participated in early childhood special education. The relationship between early childhood screening and receipt of early childhood special education was moderated by gender, with significant effects being most profound for girls. Likewise, birthweight influenced the relationship between early childhood education and early childhood special education participation. Results suggest that educational agencies should focus child find efforts on strengthening referral relationships with early care providers and ensuring all families of young children attend early childhood screening.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2018. Major: Educational Psychology. Advisors: Amanda Sullivan, Scott McConnell. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 240 pages.
Influence of Child Find Referral Mechanisms on Early Childhood Special Education Participation.
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