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Early Childhood Special Education

What is Early Intervention?

Supports and services delivered to infants and toddlers from birth through age three who are not developing as expected or who have a medical condition that can delay normal development. Early intervention supports and services focus on increasing the child’s participation in family and community activities that are important to the family. In addition, supports and services focus on helping parents and other caregivers know how to find ways to help the child learn during everyday activities. These supports and services are available for all eligible children and their families regardless of the family’s ability to pay.

Early Intervention Services are provided by the local Infant Toddler Connection program .

What is Early Childhood Special Education?

Services delivered to preschool aged children from age two (whose birthday falls on or before September 30) through five who experience a disability and require special education. Educators, along with the child’s family, develop an individualized education program (IEP) with goals and objectives to meet the child’s developmental needs. The goals and objectives include a variety of skills and/or activities for the child to learn and use consistently.

Early Childhood Special Education (Part B of IDEA) and Early Intervention (Part C of IDEA), in Virginia, provide services for children from birth to Kindergarten age who qualify according to state and federal law. All localities in the state have services available for children in this age group who are eligible.

Early Intervention services are provided for infants and toddlers with a disability. Infant and toddler with a disability means a child who is eligible to receive services in the Part C early intervention system up to age three who:

  • has delayed functioning;
  • manifests atypical development or behavior;
  • has behavioral disorders that interfere with acquisition of developmental skills; or
  • has a diagnosed physical or mental condition that has a high probability of resulting in delay, even though no current delay exists. COV § 2.1-760; 34 CFR § 303.16 (a).

Preschool aged children from age two (whose birthday falls on or before September 30) through five with a disability may be found eligible for Early Childhood Special Education services under one or more of 14 disability categories, which are defined in the federal and state regulations:

  • autism
  • deaf-blind
  • emotional disability
  • hearing impairment
  • learning disability
  • intellectual disability
  • multiple disabilities
  • orthopedic impairment
  • other health impairment
  • speech or language impairment
  • traumatic brain injury
  • visual impairment / blindness
  • developmental delay

The long term goal for our preschool aged children is for them to be as ready as possible to enter kindergarten. The earlier services are provided for children with disabilities, the better the long term prognosis. Children with special needs who have experienced support early in life do better in future settings.

Smooth transitions from early intervention to early childhood special education and then into Kindergarten are important. Families, children, sending, and receiving programs all need to share information and support each other. Transition activities need to be timely to assure access to appropriate services for the child. The transition should also be smooth and seamless between programs, people, and services.

Early Childhood Special Education services are provided by local school divisions. Local school divisions’ Special Education Departments should be contacted for specific information about their programs see the public school division directory .

Additional resources are available for Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) leaders responsible for administrative oversight of local ECSE programs. The Leadership in Effective And Developmentally-appropriate Services in ECSE (LEADS) website provides consistent information statewide to improve the collection, reporting, and use of ECSE indicator data; and connect, support, and empower local leaders to build capacity and provide high-quality programs and services throughout the state for young children ages 2-5 years with IEPs.

Additional resources are available for Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) leaders responsible for administrative oversight of local ECSE programs. The Leadership in Effective And Developmentally-appropriate Services in ECSE (LEADS) website provides consistent information statewide to improve the collection, reporting, and use of ECSE indicator data; and connect, support, and empower local leaders to build capacity and provide high-quality programs and services throughout the state for young children ages 2-5 years with IEPs.


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