The transition from birth to three programs to public school early childhood programs is significant. For many families, it is the transition from baby/toddlerhood to "big kid" and that transition comes with many details that need to be attended to so that it is a smooth and positive experience for both the child and his or her family. Many families are understandably anxious as their young learner moves from a family centered approach to services to one that is centered on educational performance.
The Differences Between Early Intervention services and Special Education Services
When a child reaches his or her third birthday, he or she becomes eligible for special education rather than early intervention services. That means that instead of an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) that focuses on developmental goals and the family the child now receives an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that focuses on the childTs academic and school needs. The legally required location of services also changes from the natural environment (often the home or daycare) that is required for early intervention to the least restrictive environment (the public school or other facility) that is required for special education.
The standard of eligibility also changes. In order to be eligible for special education services at age three, the student must have a disability that impacts his progress in the general preschool curriculum. Often, if a child remains eligible for early intervention services as he or she nears age three, the child will be found eligible for special education services.
Who is Involved in the Transition
An effective transition requires ongoing communication between the early intervention service providers, the child's IEP Team and the child's parents. If applicable, other people such as daycare providers, private preschool teachers and pediatricians should also be included in the transition planning and oversight.
The Transition Plan
Each child should have an individualized transition plan in place so that he or she can easily begin services at age 3. A transition plan is not voluntarily or an added nicety that may be provided by the child's service providers. It is required by federal regulations so that the child has a "seamless service delivery system."
The transition plan should be made part of a child's IFSP at least 90 days prior to the child's third birthday. The transition plan may be made part of the IFSP up to 9 months before the child's third birthday in order to allow for a smooth transition.
The purpose of the plan is to make sure that services are continued without interruption and to make sure that the child and his or her parents are informed and prepared for the upcoming changes.
Importance of The Three Year Old's Effective Transition
This is the first of many transitions in the life of many special education students. It is also the child's (and sometimes the family's) first experience with the public school system. The effectiveness of the transition can effect how the child and his or her family view educational transitions throughout the rest of the child's public school education. In order to provide an appropriate education for the child and to develop a good working relationship with the parent, it is important that the transition be as smooth and effective as possible.