The foundation of the special education program for students with disabilities is the Individualized Education Program (IEP) written by the IEP team.

An IEP is a document that describes the individualized education program that has been designed to meet each child's unique needs. In developing the IEP for a young child, the team must keep as its focal point the Rhode Island Early Learning and Development Standards (RIELDS) which include the goals for all young learners. 

IEP team participants include, at minimum, the child’s parent(s) or guardian(s), the qualified professionals listed below, and other qualified professionals as appropriate.

  • a regular education teacher;
  • a special education teacher, or where appropriate, a special education provider;
  • a representative of the LEA who is qualified to provide or supervise the specifically designed instruction, is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum and available resources, and has the authority to commit those resources;
  • an individual who can interpret the implications of the evaluation results;
  • at the discretion of the parent or LEA, other individuals who have knowledge or expertise regarding the child, including related service providers; and
  • whenever appropriate, the child.

Since instruction is most effective when opportunities to acquire and practice skills occur across the day and week, with parent acknowledgment it is best practice that the IEP meeting also include all of the individuals with whom the child spends significant time.

As with all special education meetings, it is important to provide interpreters as necessary to must ensure meaningful communication with parents in a language they can understand. In addition, when considering a child who is culturally or linguistically diverse, the school teams must include individuals knowledgeable about the impact of language and culture.

The IEP is a written document that describes the educational program designed to meet each eligible child’s individual needs.

The IEP consists of:

  • Present levels of performance
  • Areas to be addressed during the IEP
  • Standards student’s program will address
  • Measurable annual goals
  • Measurable short term objectives or benchmarks
  • Considerations
  • Extended school year determination
  • Special education services
  • Related services
  • Supplementary aids and services/program modifications/supports for school personnel
  • Educational environments
  • Explanation of nonparticipation in regular class, extracurricular and nonacademic areas
  • Continuum of special education placement
  • Parental consent for initial provision of special education and related services
  • Information for parents

Rhode Island's Individualized Education Program

U.S. Department of Education’s Guide to the Individualized Education Program

The state of Rhode Island is committed to providing educational opportunities for all students to achieve high standards. For children with disabilities, this means that each child must be provided with a “Free and Appropriate Public Education” designed to meet his or her needs.

Education for young children with disabilities, like that of all school aged children, must be provided in the least restrictive environment. To be educated in the LRE means to the maximum extent appropriate children with disabilities are educated with children who are nondisabled. Special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular education environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplemental aids and services cannot be achieved.

Additional information on the LRE for Preschool Children with Disabilities

Requirements relative to the IEP within the Rhode Island Regulations Governing the Education of Children with Disabilities

Evidence-based practices are defined as the integration of professional wisdom with the best available empirical evidence in making decisions about how to deliver instruction. If the goal for young children with disabilities is to enter kindergarten with the early readiness skills that serve as the foundation for all future learning, it is critical to that educators are identifying and implementing educational practices that are supported by rigorous evidence.

Division for Early Childhood (DEC) Recommended Practices

Rhode Island recognizes the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) Recommended Practices as critical guidance to practitioners and families regarding the most effective ways to improve the learning outcomes and promote the development of young children with disabilities, birth through age 5 and to bridge the gap between research and practice.

Other evidence based practices:

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

What Works Clearinghouse

National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders: Evidence-Based Practices

Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel

CONNECT: The Center to Mobilize Early Childhood Knowledge

National Professional Development Center on Inclusion (NPDCI)

2013 CASEL Guide: Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs - Preschool and Elementary School Edition

Preschool Environments – Annual Performance Report (APR) Indicator 6

Rhode Island reports the percentage of the children aged 3 through 5 with IEPs attending a regular early childhood program and receiving the majority of special education and related services in the regular early childhood program; and those in a separate special education class, separate school or residential facility.

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