Early Intervention Transition to Preschool
Children with disabilities participating in Early Intervention will be referred and evaluated by the District prior to the child’s third birthday. Children eligible for the program will be scheduled in compliance with the IEP developed by the special education Team. If a parent suspects that a preschool-age child has a disability, he/she may refer the child for a special education evaluation or participate in the annual preschool screening offered by the District.
This is required under federal and state legislation. Date and time are scheduled at parents’ home by Early Intervention (EI) and LEA representative (Early Childhood Coordinator) is invited. The purpose of the meeting is IDEA 637(9) “to review the child’s service history, discuss possible program options, and establish transition activities,” answer parent questions, provide information about the upcoming assessment/evaluation process, and provide information about school and community early childhood programs, and determine if the child is enrolled in any type of preschool program,. This is also an opportunity for the Early Childhood Coordinator to observe the child briefly in a natural setting and establish a positive working relationship with the family.
All families transitioning from Early Intervention even if they are not being referred for Special Education are encouraged to attend the Preschool Information Evening in their home school. Families with children with more significant needs are encouraged by the Early Childhood Coordinator to visit their neighborhood school, meet the preschool teachers with or without their EI case manager well before the third birthday.
The referral letter is sent by EI along with copies of most recent assessment before the third birthday: 603 CMR 28.04 “Upon referral, school districts shall evaluate children who are 2 ½ years of age and who may be receiving services through an early intervention program. An initial evaluation shall be conducted in order to ensure that if such child is found eligible, special education services begin promptly at age three.”
ETC reviews information from the Early Childhood Coordinator and EI assessments, determines assessment needs, and sends permission to test. TEAM members are notified. From SPED regulation 603 CMR; “When a child is being assessed to determine eligibility for services at age 3, an observation of the child’s interactions in the child’s natural environment is strongly encouraged (can be EI play group, child care program, family day care home, or child’s home if the child does not participate in any group setting). For children who are receiving early intervention services, school districts are encouraged to use current and appropriate assessments from early intervention teams, whenever possible, to avoid duplicate testing.” In addition, district TEAM members will observe/assess all children referred for an evaluation.
Special Education Eligibility Meeting
This must take place before the third birthday. It is expected by EI that the case manager will attend to assist the family in the IEP process. The TEAM determines eligibility for special education services which may include placement in the preschool program and may be for services only. “Based on the needs of the individual child, IEP teams have the option of designing appropriate services that may be provided in a home, public school, Head Start or licensed child care program.”
It is possible for a child to enroll in the preschool program before an IEP is written but no special education services can be provided until there is a signed IEP. A child will continue receiving EI services until the third birthday even if enrolled before the birthday.
At present, the district offers preschool programs that are either 2, 3 or 4 half day sessions. Children with more significant needs often attend 5 half days which means they are with 2 different groups of children.