Information about IEPs and Disabilities

Skills such as smiling at a familiar face, babbling, and throwing a ball show that your child is developing on track. Although kids develop skills at different times, there are some expected age ranges for reaching these goals. If you are concerned about your child’s development, there are a wide range of agencies that can answer your questions and provide your child with the early intervention or special education services that they need.

Let’s start by describing the difference between early intervention and early childhood special education.

Early intervention is a term used to describe the services and supports that are available to babies and young children with developmental delays and disabilities and their families. It includes speech therapy, physical therapy and other types of services based on the needs of the child and family. The earlier you, your doctor, and your child care provider can identify the need for early intervention, the sooner your child can begin to address, and overcome, challenges and barriers to learning. Regular developmental screenings can help identify the need for early intervention.  See our Supporting My Child’s Development page for more information on the importance of developmental screening. Early intervention is the term used to describe services and support for children under age three.

If your child is under the age of three, and you have concerns after speaking to your child’s doctor, you may wish to contact your local Child and Family Connections (CFC) office directly. They can help determine if your child is eligible for early intervention services, and help you get those services. If you are an Oak Park resident, your Child and Family Connections Office is CFC 7. To find your local CFC office, visit our Developmental Referral and Services Directory and click on “Early Intervention.”

Early childhood special education refers to services for children, three through five years of age with developmental delays or disabilities and their families. Services are provided through local school districts and special education cooperatives. If your child is three years or older, contact your local school district’s department of special education or student services. School districts in Forest Park, Oak Park, and River Forest provide screening to children over age three in the areas of communication, social/emotional development, cognition, motor skills, hearing, and vision a regular basis, in compliance with federal law. Further evaluations are completed for children as determined by screening results. Learn more about early childhood special education services.

The local school districts house early childhood programs for eligible children, age three and up, in at least one of their elementary schools.

The document below outlines the differences between Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education systems. Click on the thumbnail to view it fully in a new tab.

Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a legal document that highlights a child’s strengths and challenges, and lays out a program of services, accommodations, and supports tailored to meet that child’s needs. An IEP is for people aged 3-21 years of age. In order for kids to receive special education services, they need an IEP. There’s a lot more to IEPs. Read more about the importance of IEPs and their purpose. If you think your child may have a disability and requires tailored support in the classroom, the first thing you will need to do is schedule a developmental screening with your local school district. Learn more below.

For more general developmental information about child development, visit our “Supporting My Child’s Development” page or check out our guide for parents called “Watch and Help Me Grow” that provides a timeline of when children generally learn new skills like crawling or talking.

Support a strong start and a bright future.

We champion high-quality early childhood care and learning experiences and support for families so all children develop their full potential.