A Closer Look: The Preschool Assessment Center

We’ve all heard the phrase “every moment counts.”

The teachers and staff of the Preschool Assessment Center (PAC) take these words to heart every day.  They serve as the central point of contact for families concerned about their preschool child’s developmental milestones. The Center’s sole focus is to screen, test and, if found eligible, program educational services for our youngest students ages two through five.

Tammy Spears, department chairperson for the Preschool Assessment Center, collaborates with special education coordinator Chris Cohoon during a recent training session for preschool teachers.

Tammy Spears, department chairperson for the Preschool Assessment Center, collaborates with special education coordinator Chris Cohoon during a recent training session for preschool teachers.

How do you know if your child should be referred for screening?

When a child experiences a 25 percent delay in one or more of the following areas: cognitive, fine motor, gross motor, self-help or personal-social skills, they could be found eligible to receive special education services.  To determine eligibility for services, the team screens all children referred to them.  Referrals can be made by parents, grandparents, doctors, teachers, case managers, speech therapists or any concerned individual. The vast majority of referrals, 95 percent, come from parents and family members. Approximately 65 percent of children screened for services are forwarded for further evaluation. When the PAC team determines a need for additional testing to ascertain eligibility for services, they will request written consent from the parents. Only with written parental consent can the team proceed with the evaluations deemed necessary.  Once the results of the evaluations are available, the findings will be discussed with the family to find the best possible environment to meet the child’s educational needs. The team’s written reports include recommendations for parents regarding how to work with their children at home.

There are currently 54 preschool classes providing service to students with developmental disabilities within VBCPS. Professional development for the preschool teachers is an integral part of the job for the Center.  Topics, such as the preschool curriculum and specially designed instruction for preschool students with disabilities, are discussed at division-wide workshops.  Joanna Mills, an early childhood special education teacher from Diamond Springs Elementary School, finds these professional development activities informative.

“The training helps us to reflect on the skills our students will need for the 21st century,” Mills said. “As preschool teachers, we don’t always think of that.”

Jane DeBord, administrative coordinator for the Specialized Services section in the Office of Programs for Exceptional Children (OPEC), oversees the PAC.  She is especially proud of how the team seeks to help the families of preschool students.

“When a parent suspects their child may have a disability, they begin the assessment journey in an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding,” DeBord said. “The highly trained staff strives to inform and educate through each step of the process. By fostering the concept of ‘team,’ parents are seen as valued participants no matter what direction the path may take.”

Do you need more information on the PAC?  Please contact them at 263-2800.  For additional assistance, or general questions about your child’s education, contact the Parent Support and Information Center (PSIC) at 263-2066.

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