Early Childhood Special Education
Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) services are designed for young children (aged 3-5) with disabilities who need specially designed instruction or related services and whose disability(ies) causes the children to be unable to participate in developmentally appropriate typical preschool activities. School districts are required by law to ensure that developmentally appropriate ESCE programs and services are available. ECSE programs and services ensure that all children with disabilities have a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) that is designed to meet their unique needs and enable them to make progress in acquiring knowledge and skills, improving social relationships, and learning to take action to meet their needs within the general education program.
A young child who is deemed eligible for special education receives services in the least restrictive environment (LRE), which can include his/her home, a child care setting, or a public school, as determined by the child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team. Services are provided at no cost to families through ECSE programs in public school districts throughout Massachusetts. Processes for referral for evaluation and determination of eligibility are the same as those for older, school-aged children with disabilities.
Fund Code 298: Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Program Improvement Grant
The purpose of this federal-grant program is to support school districts to ensure that eligible children with disabilities, aged 3-5, receive a free and appropriate public education that includes special education and related services designed to meet their individual needs, and that is provided in natural/least restrictive environments. This grant is intended to further district-level early childhood special education practices that align with priorities identified by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) and the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).
Fund Code 262: Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Entitlement Grant
This grant, administered by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), provides funds to school districts and charter school districts to build capacity and to ensure that eligible 3, 4, and 5 year-old children with disabilities are appropriately identified as eligible for special education and receive developmentally appropriate special education and related services designed to meet their individual needs in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - 2004 (IDEA-2004) and Massachusetts Special Education laws and regulations.
Upcoming Professional Development
Below are links to professional development offerings relevant to early childhood special educators from the Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education, Public Health, and Early Education and Care.
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) Professional Development
Department of Public Health (DPH) Early Intervention (EI) Professional Development
Early Education and Care (EEC) Professional Development
The following agencies work with children with disabilities in early childhood. The Department of Public Health provides Early Intervention services to children birth through age two in their natural environment and the Department of Early Education and Care supports public and community-based early childhood programs throughout the Commonwealth.
The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC)
The Department of Public Health (DPH) Early Intervention (EI)
Special Education Related Resources
The following is a selection of special education and related sites that may be helpful to early childhood special educators and families.
Building the Foundation for College and Career Success for Children from Birth through Grade 3
Curriculum and Instruction
Department Guidance Documents and Advisories
English Language Learner (ELL) Guidance
Guidance for Special Education Parent Advisory Councils
The Massachusetts Tiered System of Supports
Office of Digital Learning