Child Find – Summer Referrals for Early Stages, Strong Start and School-age children

School might be out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean that the obligation of schools to identify, locate, and evaluate all children suspected of having a disability has stopped!  IDEA, the law that established a right to special education, doesn’t have a pause button for the summer.  Here is what you need to know.

Remember, you can always call us if you have questions!

How to refer a child for potential special education or early intervention services

For infants and toddlers up to 2 years and 8 months parents and professionals can, refer to Strong Start for early intervention services.

You can learn more about Strong Start here 

After a child is too old for Strong Start, Early Stages is the default agency tasked with identifying, locating and evaluating children.  Anyone may refer a child between the ages of 2 years 8 months and 5 years 10 months to Early Stages for a screening.  The ONLY time Early Stages is NOT identifying, locating and evaluating children aged between  2 years 8 months and 5 years 10 months suspected of having a disability/needing special education services is when the child is enrolled in a charter school

For older children, families should contact the child’s school – no matter what find of school they are in = DCPS, Charter or Private.  If the child is a private school student, families will need to contact the Centralized IEP Support Unit at 202-442-5475 or after you talk to the private school about your concerns. Much of the information parents and schools need to navigate the Centralized IEP Support (including the forms to complete) are available here –

A Note about Summer Referrals for Early Stages

The summer months are a time for many families to make decisions about where their children will attend school. A family’s enrollment decision may impact the Early Stages process for District children aged 2 years 8 months to 5 years 10 months.

Starting June 3rd, Early Stages will evaluate any DCPS-enrolled or pre-enrolled children referred during the summer months. Beginning on the first day of SY24-25, DCPS schools will begin accepting referrals and evaluating their enrolled students.

Early Stages continues to provide developmental screenings and evaluations for any referred District child aged 2 years 8 months and 5 years 10 months who attends a child care center or a private school or who is homeschooled or not yet enrolled in school.

For children who have already attended or are enrolling in a public charter school, Early Stages cannot evaluate or determine eligibility for special education services. Early Stages will transfer any referrals they receive for charter-enrolled children to their appropriate charter school.  AJE strongly recommends that families follow up directly with their charter and Early Stages if they thing they might be in this situation.  


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