Special Needs Checklist

This checklist is designed to be used by parents to aid in their selection or to help improve programs for their young child with special needs. While this checklist is based on the DEC Recommended Practices in Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education (Sandall, McLea & Smith, 2000), it does not include all of the practices. Within the checklist, the term professional will be used to refer to teacher, therapists, classroom assistants and others who work with children.

  • What are the policies of the program and how are they communicated to families?
  • Families are involved in the development of program policies.
  • Program policies ensure that families understand their rights.
  • Program policies reflect and are sensitive to the diversity of children and families in the program.
  • Program policies are communicated to families in ways that are understandable and clear to all families.
  • Policies require a family-centered approach in all phases of the child’s program. Policies promote the family’s active participation in all decisions about their child.
  • Program policies promote the provision of services in naturally occurring settings and routines.
  • Program policies ensure that the child’s program is based on child and family nees
  • Program policies ensure that families are involved in all aspects of the program (e.g. curriculum development, professional development, staff evaluation).

How do professionals work together with families to meet the needs of children?

  • Professionals and family members should make decisions and work together.
  • Professionals from various disciplines (physical therapy, speech therapy) teach skills to each other so that when they are working with children they can work on all of the child’s goals.
  • Services are based on the child’s needs, involve the child’s regular caregivers, and focus on the child’s regular routines.
  • Services are provided in ways that eliminate stress, are flexible and individualized for each child and family, and promote the well being of families.

How does the program determine the strengths and needs of the child and family?

  • Programs provide families with a primary contact person and easy ways to contact that person.
  • Families and professionals meet together to talk about the child’s strengths and needs.
  • Professionals ask families to talk about their child’s interests, abilities, and needs and demonstrate to the families that this information is critical and useful in terms of developing the child’s program.
  • Professionals ask families to talk about their resources, concerns, and priorities related to their child’s development.
  • Professionals use a variety of methods for determining the child’s strengths and needs (e.g. observe the child in different settings, interview the primary caregivers, test the child.).
  • Professionals test children in settings that are comfortable for the child.
  • Professionals become familiar with the child before testing him/her.
  • Professionals and families assess children at different times during the year to measure progress. Modifications in the child’s program are made based on these ongoing findings.
  • Professionals report assessment results to families in a way that is understandable sensitive, and responsive to the family’s concerns.
  • Families are given time to ask questions, express concerns, or make comments about assessment findings before decisions are made about the child’s program.
  • Professionals tell families about their rights related to assessment.

What does the classroom look like? How is the day structured?

  • The classroom is free of safety hazards (e.g. sharp objects, slippery rugs, hazardous materials).
  • There are interesting materials that are appropriate to the child’s ages and are adapted for the needs of children with disabilities.
  • There are materials that represent different cultures.
  • There are a variety of different types of activities (e.g. small group, large group, centers)
  • Activities are structured such that children can learn through interaction with materials and other children in addition to interactions with adults.

What are the teachers and other adults doing?

  • Professionals provide children with different levels of support depending on their needs (e.g. physically assisting a child, asking questions, providing models.
  • Professionals use teaching strategies and adaptations that promote the child’s participation in classroom activities.
  • Professionals encourage children to help each other.
  • Professionals provide instruction to children that target their individual goals and objectives.
  • Professionals attempt to prevent challenging behaviors by explaining class rules, planning activities that are interesting to children, minimizing the amount of time children have to wait without having something to do, and modeling appropriate social skills.
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