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.