Early Childhood Special EducationFor Ages 3 through 5
Early Childhood Special Education addresses individual needs within the context of developmentally appropriate early learning experiences including early literacy, math, play, and social areas. Preschool special education is a state and federally mandated program for children ages three through five who are experiencing challenges in their learning and development and meet eligibility criteria for special education and related services.
Every school district provides special education services to young children. Over 13,000 children in Tennessee receive individualized special education services each year as a part of IDEA 619 Preschool.
- Eligibility for children is determined by criteria that have been established by federal and state rules and regulations.
- Eligible children are entitled to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.
- Each child with a disability has an Individualized Education Program, or IEP. Parents, teachers, therapists, and school administrators make up the IEP team and collaborate to write the IEP. The IEP lists the individual goals for the child and the services the child receives.
- A young child who is determined eligible for special education receives services in the least restrictive environment; children should be educated with non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate. This may include a public school, Head Start, a community based child care setting, or the home as determined by the child's IEP team.
- Special education is not a place but a system of services and supports for children with disabilities.
"Child Find" is the process of locating, identifying, and evaluating children with disabilities to ensure that they receive services to which they are entitled. Children who are suspected of having a disability can be referred for a possible evaluation at no cost to determine if they are eligible for special education services. Referrals of children with a suspected delay or disability can be made to your local education agency (school district). District contact information is available here.
- Dear Colleague Letter on Preschool Least Restrictive Environment
- Dear Colleague Letter on Response to Intervention (RTI) and Preschool Services
- Statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs
- Statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs – Executive Summary
For information about services for children ages birth through two, contact Tennessee’s Early Intervention System.