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Early Childhood Special Education

Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) is a federal and state mandated program for young children with developmental delays and disabilities.  It refers to the range of special education services that apply specifically to children between the ages of 3 and 5, prior to kindergarten.


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Rhode Island Regulations Governing the Education of Children with Disabilities ensure that all children with disabilities, including children with developmental delays, who require special education to meet their educational needs are provided a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) in accordance with their individual needs.

It is important to recognize that early childhood special education is not a place, nor a specific program, but rather specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parent, which addresses the unique needs that result from a child’s disability. Specially designed instruction is instruction that has been adapted in content, methodology or delivery as appropriate to the individual needs of each eligible child.  Special education ensures access to the general education curriculum so that each child can meet the educational standards that apply to all children.

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