Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) services are designed for children from age three until the child's seventh birthday. Children can qualify for services under the ECSE criteria until the child turns seven.
Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) services begin with a developmental evaluation. This evaluation documents a child’s skills in a variety of areas such as cognition, motor, social-emotional, language-communication, and/or adaptive (self-help) development. There are also certain conditions and medical diagnoses that automatically qualify a child for ECSE services. For example, a qualifying condition/diagnoses is one that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay and the child currently demonstrates a need.
In Minnesota, Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) services are provided through the public school system. Districts within the state of MN often refer to these services as the Help Me Grow Program.
What happens after the referral is made?
A school district assessment team reviews the referrals and meets with parents to discuss the evaluation process. Upon receiving written consent, the evaluation is conducted to determine if the child meets the eligibility requirements for ECSE services. If the child is eligible, a case manager (typically a teacher with a license in Early Childhood Special Education) is assigned to work with the family. Depending on the child’s needs, additional service providers may be included on the child’s team. The team members could include a physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech language pathologist, county public health nurse or social worker, vision or hearing specialist, or other providers. Parents are also a very important part of their child’s team.
What happens next?
After the assessment is completed, the team, which includes the parents, will meet to identify goals and develop an individualized plan of services to support the child (called an Individual Education Program or IEP). Services for children ages three through six are provided in a school setting, typically preschool and/or kindergarten.