Early Childhood Special Education

Early Childhood Special Education is a state and federally mandated program for three, four, and five year old children with developmental delays or disabilities, who are not old enough for kindergarten.

These laws are intended to ensure that all young children who require special education are provided a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment, in accordance with their individual needs. The educational needs of these children (because of a disability or developmental delay in the area of cognition, communication, social/emotional development, physical development and/or adaptive functioning) are not able to be met without special education and related services. 

This group includes preschool children who are delayed or who have Autism Spectrum Disorders, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disturbances, hearing impairments, intellectual disabilities, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairments, other health impairments, specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, traumatic brain-injury or visual impairments. 

Preschool children with disabilities who meet eligibility criteria may receive services upon reaching their third birthday. Every school district or special education collaborative provides early childhood special education services. Currently approximately 2,900 (2012 data) 3-5 year olds receive individualized special education preschool services though school-based programs, across a continuum of educational environments.