The Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill (HB) 554 in the final days of the last General Assembly. Among other things, the bill changed the definition of “child with a disability” under Ohio law, increasing the maximum age of students who are eligible for services under that category.
One of the categories of students who are entitled to special education is students with developmental delays. The law formerly included any “child who is at least three years of age and less than six years of age” who was experiencing developmental delays as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures. These delays can occur in a child’s physical development, cognitive development, communication development, social or emotional development, or adaptive development. Children with developmental delays may qualify for special education and related services.
Under the new law, effective April 6, 2023, a child with a developmental delay can qualify as a child with a disability under that category until their tenth birthday. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has recently explained that this change means that children in preschool who are identified as having a developmental delay and receive special education services can continue to receive those services without being re-evaluated in advance of turning age six or moving to kindergarten. Any child who is not yet ten may be evaluated as eligible for special education or related services under the developmental delay disability category. As before, students aging out of the “developmental delay” category may, and often will, still meet the definition of one of the other eligibility categories and may thus continue to be eligible for special education.
A child who already has been identified as having a developmental delay, who is in preschool and is receiving special education and related services under that identification during this academic year, and who has or will turn six on or before June 30, is permitted to remain in preschool and will continue to receive services. The child can also enter kindergarten with a developmental delay identification, and continue to receive special education and related services, without being re-evaluated simply because the child has turned, or will turn, six. Students who need to be re-evaluated for other reasons, such as the expiration of their evaluation team report, can always be reevaluated at any time.
ODE’s Offices of Early Learning and School Readiness and Exceptional Children are working on guidance materials to support school districts implementing this change. When they are ready, the materials will be posted on: Preschool Special Education | Ohio Department of Education.
OSBA’s division of legal services will continue to monitor developments in this area and will share guidance materials when they become available. If you have general questions about this change, please contact the division at (855) 672-2529 or (855) OSBA-LAW. As always, specific questions about how these changes may affect individual students should be addressed to the district’s legal counsel.
Questions about preschool special education can also be sent to the Preschool Special Education team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions about special education for school-age students can be sent to the Office for Exceptional Children at email@example.com.