EI to ECSE Transition

IDEA requires that children taking part in Early Intervention (EI), a program designed to support infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities, who will participate in preschool special education, experience a smooth and effective transition and that by their third birthday an IEP has been developed and is being implemented.

To create a seamless transition for children and families, Rhode Island has developed shared policies and procedures that highlight both EI and ECSE’s responsibilities relative to the transition period.

EI’s initial notification of potential eligibility for ECSE

The process of transitioning a child from EI to ECSE in the local school department typically begins when the child is 28 months old. If a child has a significant disability or delay, or for children turning 3 during the summer, the process may begin when the child is 27 months old to allow time for the ECSE team to get to know the child and plan for the necessary services and supports. It is at this time, the child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) team, including the family, determine whether the child is potentially eligible for special education based on the team’s knowledge of the child’s functioning in relation to Rhode Island’s special education eligibility requirements.

If it is determined that the child is not potentially eligible for ECSE, with the family’s approval the child’s IFSP team makes reasonable efforts to convene a transition conference with providers of other necessary support services, including relevant community-based service agencies.

If it is determined that the child is potentially eligible for ECSE, notification is sent to the local school district. Per regulations, the LEA has ten days to respond by contacting the EI service coordinator to schedule the transition conference.

When the child is 30 months old, or at the discretion of all parties up to nine months before the child’s third birthday, the IFSP team convenes a transition conference. The purpose of the meeting is to develop an individualized plan for the transition of services between Early Intervention (EI) and Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE).

At the meeting, the team develops a written transition plan, which is documented on the IFSP. This plan includes the necessary activities to be conducted by EI, ECSE, and the family, which will allow the child a seamless transition from EI to ECSE by his/her third birthday without a disruption of services. The LEA representative informs the parent(s)/guardian(s) about relevant special education procedures such as the referral, consent for evaluation and service, evaluation, eligibility, and the development of the IEP. They also provide families with information about parental rights including the child’s right to FAPE (a free and appropriate public education) and the provision of special education within the LRE (least restrictive environment).

Rhode Island Regulations Governing the Education of Children with Disabilities

View requirements relative to referral, evaluation and eligibility within the Rhode Island Regulations Governing the Education of Children with Disabilities

The transition meeting also provides an opportunity for EI and ECSE to discuss the importance of participation in early care and education programs. Although all 3- to 5-year-old children benefit from access to a high-quality preschool education, participation is even more critical for young children with disabilities, including developmental delays. Special education should not be considered a replacement for enrollment in a high-quality general early childhood program but rather the necessary specialized instruction that will allow for active and meaningful participation. During the transition period, EI and ECSE team members can assist families in identifying high-quality early childhood programs in their community and public schools as well as any necessary special education services and supports to ensure full participation.

With the EI notification representing a referral to ECSE, the LEA follows the same process and procedure as with any referral—the evaluation team meeting to review the referral, the evaluation, the evaluation team meeting to determine eligibility, and if eligible, the IEP meeting to develop the IEP. As with other referrals, the LEA ensures that the process complies with state and federal regulations relative to meeting participation, timelines, parental notification, parental consent, and other requirements associated with the referral and IEP process.

As the children are transitioning from EI, LEAs use the entire six months of the transition process to ensure that all requirements are met, and services are implemented by the child’s third birthday. This frequently means that meetings are planned early in the process to account for unexpected delays. At the request of the parent, it is best practice to invite the Part C service coordinator, other Part C service representatives and if applicable a classroom teacher to participate in all LEA evaluation team and IEP meetings. If the most recent norm-referenced assessments, criterion-based assessments, the IFSP, and any relevant outside evaluations have not been sent with the notification, the EI service coordinator will provide copies as soon as possible following the notification, given parent consent.

In some cases, a child who is nearing his or her third birthday may be referred to EI for eligibility determination. Those children who are referred to EI between 90 and 45 days before the child’s third birthday are considered “late referrals.” When this occurs, the EI representative will evaluate the child for EI eligibility, and if eligible, develop an IFSP that includes a transition plan. A transition conference with the LEA is not required in this case, but given parental consent, the IFSP and transition plan is shared with the LEA representative immediately after they are developed. At the same time, the LEA representative will initiate the special education referral process as soon as possible in compliance with all requirements and in following the procedures described above. LEAs should consider combining meetings if beneficial to the child/family, ensuring that requirements of each are met. Although it may not be possible to implement special education services by the child’s third birthday, every effort should be made by the LEA to initiate services as soon as possible.

It may also be the case that a child may be referred to EI fewer than 45 days before his or her third birthday. When this occurs, EI will not evaluate or implement services but will instead support the family in contacting the LEA to submit a referral directly to special education. The LEA will process the referral following non-transition regulatory timelines, as the referral will not be considered an EI to ECSE transition. The process, however, will begin immediately and should not wait until the child turns 3 years old. Although special education services will not begin until a child’s third birthday, LEAs must start the referral process upon receipt of the referral.

Early Childhood Transition– Annual Performance Report (APR) Indicator 12

Rhode Island reports the percentage of the children referred by Part C prior to age 3, who are found eligible for Part B, and who have an IEP developed and implemented by their third birthdays.

For more information on Early Childhood Special Education, contact your district level Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Coordinator or select from the following sections: