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Michigan: Schools are failing "13,000 preschoolers with special needs"

July 30, 2018, Chalkbeat: For Michigan’s 3- and 4-year-olds with special needs, ‘it’s hard’ to find a place to learn https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/2018/07/30/for-michigans-3-and-4-year-olds-with-special-needs-its-hard-to-find-a-place-to-learn/ Nicole Maloy has been trying to get her son Alexander into a preschool that can address his speech delay since the day he turned 3. When he was younger, he was in a program called Early On that works with babies and toddlers who have special needs. When he’s older, he’ll be in a kindergarten program where teachers will be required by law to make sure he gets what he needs. But right now he’s 3 and, in Michigan, there’s no clear path for parents trying to get special services for their 3- and 4-year olds. That’s because the state’s lumbering process for transitioning 3-year-olds with special needs and disabilities into early childhood intervention programs is rife with miscommunication, lack of easily accessible information, and a shortage of spaces for 3- and 4-year-olds. For the state’s estimated 13,000 preschoolers with special needs, it’s more difficult for parents to find places that will accept their children than it is for other preschoolers, said Richard Lower, the state’s director of preschool education. In fact, there is a shortage of spots for all the state’s preschoolers. But “when you have a subset of 3-year-olds with disabilities, it’s even harder for them to find care,” said Lower. … Parents are desperate for better resources to figure out how to best help their children obtain the critical early education they need to be kindergarten ready. … A recent annual federal education report ranked Michigan among the nation’s worst for serving children with special needs starting at age 3, and said the state “needs intervention,” the second lowest ranking in the report. That, combined with a special report from Lt. Gov. Brian Cally’s office last year that found schools are shouldering $700 million a year to pay for services for children with special needs that are not funded by the state, contribute to mounting evidence that Michigan is failing children with special needs…. “This is a statewide issue,” said Marcie Lipsitt, a parent advocate and consultant who helps families in southeastern Michigan navigate the complex special education system. “There just isn’t enough support or funding for families of children with special needs,” she said. We need more capacity and more outreach for families.”… “It’s a complex system that is not as fully developed as K-12, and it’s still being built in early childhood education. There are pieces that are great and high quality, and other pieces that are not as highly developed.”