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Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE)

In the state of Virginia, the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) requires that Early Childhood Special Education (IDEA Part B) and Early Intervention (IDEA Part C), provide services for children from birth to kindergarten age who qualify according to state and federal law. Preschool-aged children from age two (whose birthday falls on or before September 30) through five with a disability may be eligible for Early Childhood Special Education (ECSEC) services under one or more of 13 disability categories, which are defined in the federal and state regulations: autism, deaf-blind, developmental delay, emotional disability, hearing impairment, learning disability, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury and visual impairment/blindness.

The long-term goal for preschool-aged children is for them to be as ready as possible to enter kindergarten. Preschool-aged children with a disability may be eligible for ECSE services. A child is found eligible for special education and related services on an individual basis through a referral/eligibility process. During this process, Richmond Public Schools, as the local educational agency, is required to consider and document information from a variety of sources including aptitude and achievement tests, parental input, teacher recommendations, observations, physical/medical conditions, social/family history and adaptive behavior.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

When a child is found eligible for special education services, an individualized education program is developed to support their learning and academic needs. Special education is specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. Specially designed instruction means adapting the content, methodology or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs of the student that result from the child's disability; and to ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that the child can meet the educational standards that apply to all children. Services and placement as well as goals/objectives for learning are addressed in the IEP. ECSE program provides a variety of service delivery options to educate children 2-5 years of age who have a delay or disability.

Sample Continuum of Least Restrictive Environments (LRE) for Preschoolers with Disabilities

  • Home-based: When there is a medical need or the parent feels the student is too young to attend school, home-based services is an option to receive educational support and to monitor progress. Home-based services can also be considered for students who are attending preschool/daycare centers outside of the Richmond Public School district. The school team will develop an ISP so that the student can receive services through an integrative services model with an ECSE teacher.
  • Self-Contained: Students found eligible for ECSE services and who have more significant needs shall receive academic support in a self-contained classroom. These classes consist of a low teacher to student ratio with a full-time instructional assistant. Students receive all services within this setting including related services. These students have opportunities to interact with typically developing peers, not only during recess, meals and assemblies, but also during scheduled visits to a general education preschool classrooms for academic support or for social interactions with typically developing peers..
  • Preschool Inclusion: An ECSE student placed in an inclusive setting, whether in RPS Head Start, RPS VPI or in a community-based preschool will receive classroom services from a special teacher collaborating within a general education classroom or from an integrative services teacher. The student’s IEP will influence the service delivery and outline the educational needs. Both the general and special educators share the responsibility of ensuring the student has equal access to every opportunity given to their general education peers.
  • Integrative Services in RPS placement/classroom: Students found eligible for specially designed instruction who will continue to attend a parent privately placed preschool will receive special education through an integrative service delivery model. This model is designed to allow students with special needs to be supported in a community-based classroom. ECSE teachers providing these services work with students within their respective preschool centers and give strategies to classroom personnel. Students receiving integrative services will not have an IEP, but an ISP, outlining their educational needs.
  •  Individual Service Plan: Similar to an IEP, an ISP outlines the academic needs and supports for a student who is placed in an alternate, parent private placement. The ISP allows the RPS student to receive special education support in a different educational setting but services are limited.