Early Childhood Special Education as defined by Federal law (IDEA) is intended to give children with a disability a free and appropriate education in accordance with their individual needs. The disability may be a developmental delay in learning, a speech and language delay, a physical or emotional impairment, or another delay that impacts the child’s learning.
Each child who is eligible for Special Education services will have an Individualized Educational Plan, or IEP. This is a plan that is written by the IEP team which includes parents, teachers, therapists, and administrators. The plan will list learning goals for the child, will detail the services of therapists and teachers, and determine the best setting.
For some students with an IEP, the best placement is an Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) classroom. These classrooms often have many adults in the room. There is always a teacher, and a paraprofessional. Other professionals may include the speech therapist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, psychologist or social worker. These individuals work as a team to help the children achieve the goals written in their IEP.
The ECSE classrooms use the Teaching Strategies GOLD curriculum, which is also used by all the general education preschool classrooms within the WMISD. This curriculum builds foundational academic skills, as well as participation in group learning experiences, fine motor skills, social/emotional development, and other skills necessary to help prepare children for school.
For other preschool children who qualify for Special Education services, the best place to implement their IEP may be in a typical preschool classroom. Then the therapies and services that are written into the IEP will be provided in a regular classroom. Research shows that participation in programs with typically developing peers is beneficial to all and enhances the language, social skills, and participation in a typical curriculum. ECSE students in a regular preschool classroom may also receive the support of a teacher consultant, who may work directly with the student on the IEP goals as well as support the child’s teacher with strategies and adaptations that will help the child be successful in the general education classroom.
All Early Childhood Special Education services are designed to support learning in preparation for future school experiences.