The Acorn Patch — Early Childhood Special Education

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The Acorn Patch offers children ages 3-5 with developmental delays the chance to reach their potential in the important early years of childhood, giving them a jump-start on the rest of their education.

Funded by the state of Missouri, the Acorn Patch is a no-cost program for families of eligible children who are three to five years old. The state defines eligibility, and the Kearney R-1 School District provides special education services including but not limited to: early childhood special education, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, etc.

In order to be eligible for The Acorn Patch, the child’s development must:

  • be at or below 1.5 standard deviations or equivalent levels, of the mean in any two areas of development, or
  • at or below 2.0 standard deviations or equivalent levels in one area of development, and
  • the child must need special education and/or related services
  • (Areas of development that can be used to determine eligibility include physical, cognitive, communication, social/emotional and/or adaptive.)

Referral Process

If you have concerns about how your child is progressing, please see our Parents as Teachers program to schedule a developmental screening.

Placement Options

Students will receive services in their least restrictive environment with the most access to typically developing peers, as determined by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. This team includes the parents, early childhood special education teacher, related service providers and a local education agency representative (LEA). Options for services include the following.

Itinerant Services

Itinerant services are located outside of the special education classroom and are typically by appointment only. For example, receiving speech and language services at designated appointment times or receiving teacher support at a child’s daycare or preschool. Services needed are based on the IEP team’s recommendation.

NEW! SERVICES PROVIDED IN KEARNEY PRESCHOOLS & DAYCARES! This year we will begin providing itinerant Early Childhood Special Education teacher services out in the local daycares and preschools (within the Kearney School District) for students meeting eligibility for services. This setting allows for students to remain in their natural environment while providing support to the student, as well as consultation and strategies provided for the preschool staff. The Acorn Patch teachers work with regular education teachers, paraprofessionals and caregivers in addressing the child’s special education needs.

Classroom Based Services

All classroom based services are provided at the Kearney Junior High School in the early childhood wing. This is an access only area that includes the District’s Puppy Pound Daycare and Preschool for children birth through age 5, Parents as Teachers, and the Acorn Patch. Kearney has two different classroom options for students with disabilities needing a classroom with a special education teacher.

NEW! Integrated Classroom: This is a new classroom option for the 2015-2016 school year. Students are provided special education services in a larger classroom environment with up to 12 students for 3 year olds and 16 students for 4 year olds, who need more access to students without disabilities. Teachers provide the same curriculum and Missouri Early Learning Standards in both classrooms. Students experience small group, large group and individualized instruction from a certified special education teacher.

Center Based Classroom: Students in the center based classroom participate in a smaller environment with approximately 6-8 students with special needs and 2 students without disabilities who serve as “peer models”. The peer models are students who also participate in the district’s Puppy Pound employee preschool program. Students participate in small group, large group and individualized instruction. Students in this setting may need more individualized support to make progress on their IEP goals.

NEW! Integrated Peer Enrollment

In order to provide more access to students without disabilities, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) provides funding for students to participate within the Early Childhood Special Education classrooms, in order to provide students with disabilities the most access to their same age peers.

Twelve Kearney School District students were added this year to the Integrated Classrooms to serve as additional same age peers for Acorn Patch ECSE students. These students were referred from the Parents as Teachers program and were included based on needs criteria. For additional information on the Integrated Peer program, please contact Heather Guilkey, Director of Special Services, at or Marla McBride, PAT Supervisor, at All children referred for the Integrated Peer program must be a participant in the Parents as Teachers program and have received a developmental screening within the last school year.