Transition into Preschool

If your child is approaching his/her third birthday you may have been informed that s/he is no longer eligible for “early intervention” services.  You may have been told that s/he will “transition” into the “preschool program.”  You may wonder, “Well, what’s the difference?”

When special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was developed in the 1970s, only children from the age of six through 21 were served.  Later, the age range was extended from three to 21.  This section of the IDEA is called “Part B.”  Still later, the category of children from birth through age two was added.  This section of the IDEA is called “Part C.”  So, the programs for different age groups are slightly different, and families transition from one program to another.  Also, in many states, the agency that runs programs for infants and toddlers is different from the agency that runs programs for children older than age two.  So, children and families may transition from one agency to another.  Further, each state provides services a little differently.

Sound confusing?  Let’s compare the programs as they serve children up to age five.  Remember, these are general rules.  Your state’s system may vary.


Infant and Toddler Program


Children Age Three to Five

May have a name such as “Bright Beginnings,” “First Start,” or “Sooner Start.” May simply be called the “three to five,” “early childhood,” or “preschool” program.
Services are based on the Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP).  This includes statements of:

  • the child’s present levels of development;
  • the family’s resources, priorities, and concerns related to their child;
  • measurable outcomes for the child, including pre-literacy and language skills, and measurable outcomes for the family; and
  • specific early intervention services to be provided
Services are based on the Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  This includes statements of:

  • the child’s present levels of development;
  • measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals; and
  • special education and related services to be provided.

Language and communication needs of a deaf or hard of hearing child must be considered.

Services are developed to meet the child’s developmental needs. School systems must provide a “free and appropriate public education.”
To the “maximum extent appropriate,” services are provided in “natural environments,” such as places that children without disabilities are found. To the “maximum extent appropriate” children with disabilities are educated with children without disabilities.  Parents are part of the team that decides the child’s placement; where the child will receive special education and related services.
Services can be provided outside the “natural environment” — a justification must be given. A “continuum of alternative placements” must be available, including regular classes, special classes, and special schools.