'Child Find' focuses on identifying preschool students with learning disabilities in Berryville district

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Apryl Harmon hopes to identify children with disabilities every year, but this year she's focusing on preschool age children.

Harmon, the special education director for the Berryville School District, said the district has succeeded at identifying children with disabilities from kindergarten to 12th grade. This year, Harmon said, she wants to continue that success with children from 3 to 5 years old.

Since the district does not have a special education pre-school, Harmon said she contracts with the Ozarks Unlimited Resource Educational Service Cooperative (OUR) in Harrison to provide early childhood special education services.

"I don't think most parents are aware of the early intervention services that are available to them free of charge," Harmon said.

OUR provides screenings for developmental, speech, hearing and vision to determine if a child qualifies for early childhood special education. If so, services for developmental instruction, speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy are available for free. OUR provides certified teachers and therapists.

Harmon emphasized the importance of screening children early, saying early detection yields better results for children later in life.

"If you identify them at the preschool age, you have two to three years where they can be getting services. It makes the transition to public school a lot better because they've already received therapy," Harmon said. "Early intervention is huge."

She asked parents to screen their children for precaution; children who don't receive services until kindergarten, Harmon said, are at a disadvantage compared with children who receive help in preschool.

"If you're not sure that your child needs any assistance, go ahead and contact us anyway. It doesn't hurt to screen them," Harmon said.

Harmon is hosting the district's annual child find meeting from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24 in the high school east annex building test center. The Berryville School District is responsible for identifying, locating and evaluating all children with disabilities from age 3 to 21 within its jurisdiction. This includes highly mobile, homeless, home school or private school students.

For more information about screening services for preschool children, contact Lanna Bullington at 870-429-9100.

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