COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A few state lawmakers are taking steps to ensure young Ohio students are set up for success.

Introduced to the Statehouse in late July, Senate Bill 356 would expand the age at which children can be evaluated for a developmental delay, paving the way for school districts to receive adequate funding to provide educational support to those experiencing a delay, according to the bill’s sponsor Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware).

“We found out over this last spring, there were some issues with kids who have developmental delays and when they’re diagnosed and being able to qualify for services that are needed for that,” Brenner said.

Under current Ohio law, bill co-sponsor Sen. Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester) said children must be identified with a developmental delay between three and six years old for schools to receive additional funding for educational services.

SB 356, however, would push the maximum age back to 10 years old.

“I co-sponsored Senate Bill 356 because it allows kids to be identified by age 10, allowing Ohio to serve the most students in line with federal law, and because it directs funding to schools for students identified as having a developmental delay through the school funding plan,” Maharath said in an email.

Capping the age at 10, as opposed to six, more accurately reflects the way the brain develops, according to Carla Adams, regional director of the Child Development Council of Franklin County.

“Our cognition goes until we’re well into our early adulthood,” Regional Director of the Child Development Council of Franklin County Carla Adams said. “So, stopping at six really doesn’t make sense.”

The bill, also co-sponsored by Sen. Sandra O’Brien (R-Ashtabula), also allows children with developmental delays to qualify for additional support resources at school, like an individualized education program (IEP), counseling, social work and medical services, according to the bill’s text.

Those additional support nets, Adams said, could be a life-saver for students experiencing developmental delays.

“The more we can put our resources on the front end, it is really going to help in the long run,” she said.

Increasing the maximum age also gives schools the flexibility to continue working with children who have developmental delays without having to seek a separate qualifying condition to receive special education funding.

Adams said the bill is timely, as some students missed out on key evaluations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even our 4-year-olds in our program, making sure that they had the right interventions, the right type of evaluations, we kind of lost two years,” Adams said.

Brenner said if the bill does not pass before the legislative session ends in December, he is hopeful it passes early next session and is added to next year’s budget.

“It’s about better service,” Brenner said. “Better service for kids who need it and that’s why we went ahead and introduced the bill.”