Guide for Determining Eligibility
and Special Education Programs
and/or Services for
Preschool Students with Disabilities

January 2003


The New York State Education Department
Office of Vocational and Educational Services
for Individuals with Disabilities


January 2003

Dear Colleague:

One of the most critical periods of growth in the development of a child occurs during the first five years of life. A child's interest and love for learning is shaped during the preschool years. While parents are the main teachers of the child at this young age, research and experience tell us that quality early education programs can make a difference and increase a child's opportunity for successful learning and later life accomplishments. This guidance document is designed to help determine the type of special education programs and services needed for preschool students with disabilities. It was developed with assistance from an advisory group representing early childhood special educators and therapists, parents, municipalities, statewide and regional provider organizations, academic experts and other early childhood education professionals. Providing special education programs and services at an early age helps prepare a child with a disability to enter school ready to learn.

This document provides guidance to preschool evaluators and members of the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) in developing individualized education programs for preschool students with disabilities that will result in student achievement and growth. It is important to identify the types of services, including the frequency, intensity, duration and location of services that are consistent with the strengths and needs of the child. This guide should be viewed as a planning tool for discussion and decision-making about the individual needs of each preschool child with a disability.

If you have any questions about this information or would like to share your comments, please contact staff of the VESID Special Education Policy Unit at 518-473-2878 or complete the evaluation form located in Appendix F. We are interested in learning how these guidelines have worked for you.

This publication is also available on the VESID-Special Education web site at www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/publications/preschool/home.html.

If you would like to receive notification of our publications via e-mail, register at www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/publications/register.htm.

Sincerely,

Lawrence C. Gloeckler


Contents
(Click here for Printable pdf Format)

FOREWORD and ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

INTRODUCTION

Background
Least Restrictive Environment

Preschool Guidance Document

THE INDIVIDUAL EVALUATION

Purpose and Definition
Parent/Family/Caregiver Involvement
The Referral Process
The Evaluation Process
Components of the Individual Evaluation
   
     Required Assessments or Evaluations
        Other Appropriate Assessments or Evaluations
Types of Evaluation Strategies/Methods
Evaluation Instruments
Evaluation of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students
Evaluation Reports
Standards of Good Practice

ELIGIBILITY DETERMINATION

Criteria for Eligibility for Preschool Special Education Programs and/or Services
   
     Delay or Disability in Cognitive Development
        Delay or Disability in Language and Communication
        Delay or Disability in Adaptive Development
        Delay or Disability in Social-Emotional Development
        Delay or Disability in Motor Development

DEVELOPING THE INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM (IEP)

The IEP Recommendation
General Considerations for IEP Development
Special Considerations for IEP Development
Steps to Determine Programs and Types of Services
The Continuum of Preschool Special Education Programs and/or Services
Determining the Frequency, Duration, Intensity and Location of Special Education Programs    and/or Services
Guidance for Determining the Provision of Related Services

Indicators for CPSE Recommendation of Frequency of Related Services
Determining Related Services: Group or Individual Sessions and Direct or Indirect Instruction
Related Services: Speech and Language Pathology
Related Services: Occupational Therapy
Related Services: Physical Therapy
Related Services: Counseling (Child, Parent, Family)

Guidance for Determining the Provision of Special Education Itinerant Services
Guidance in Determining Options According to the Preschool Continuum of Special Education  Programs and/or Services
Extended School Year Programming

APPENDICES

Appendix A  
Updated Preschool Student Evaluation Summary Report Form and Clarification on New Provisions Required Pursuant to the Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Appendix B 
Companion Documents to the Preschool Guide

Appendix C
VESID Contact Information

Appendix D
VESID Statewide Quality Assurance Contact Information

Appendix E
Early Childhood Direction Centers

Appendix F
Publication Evaluation Form


Foreword and Acknowledgements

The New York State Education Department developed the Guide for Determining Eligibility and Special Education Programs and/or Services for Preschool Students with Disabilities with assistance from an advisory workgroup representing major service organizations, practitioners, teachers, therapists, college preparation programs, parents, administrators and others. The purpose of the guide is to assist parents and professionals in evaluating preschool children and developing appropriate individualized education programs (IEPs) in the least restrictive environment for preschool children with disabilities.

During the advisory workgroup's initial meeting it was determined that the guidelines would contain three major sections: (1) conducting individual evaluations; (2) determining child eligibility for preschool special education programs and/or services; and (3) developing the individualized education program in regard to the special education programs and/or services needed for each eligible preschool child, including the type, frequency, intensity, duration and location of services. In addition, the content of the guide would be based on current law, regulation and policy.

The Department appreciates and thanks the following individuals of the Advisory Workgroup for their expertise and commitment to this project.

Marie Anzalone Dale Oken
Nancy Braman Gay Petri
Jaclyn Brilling Frances Porcaro
Kathleen Doyle Margaret Raustiala
Ron Dumont Luis Riquelme
Patricia Dyer Pam Roadman
Andrea Fair Sondra Roth
Judi Gerson Pat Snieska
Joanne Haumesser Phyllis Spiegel-McGill
Ronnie Hausheer Beatrice Spear
Karen Kott Linda Tepperman
Karen Long Aurora Garcia Tunon
Susan Martello Catherine Kerins Wheeler
Kathleen O'Brien Barbara Zittel

The State Education Department extends a special thank you to Ms. Nancy P. Huffman and members of the Early Childhood Intervention Council of Monroe County's Task Force on Preschool Eligibility Criteria for permission to use sections of their guideline document, Eligibility Criteria for Preschool Student with a Disability, 1994.

After the workgroup drafted the three major sections of the guide, the Department contracted with MAGI Educational Services, Inc. to edit for consistency and clarity. The Department gratefully acknowledges Dr. Judy Grossman, MAGI consultant, and her ability to put the three major pieces of this document together.

The draft document was also revised by Department staff as a result of the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Prior to preparation of the final draft guide, the Department asked each member of the advisory workgroup to individually review and provide additional comments.

The Department is issuing this guide based on the results of a three-month field test conducted in 1999 by The Westchester Institute for Human Services Research, Inc. Districts were selected based on geographic type and percentage of students receiving services in integrated settings. The evaluation activities included training, implementation of the draft guide, and an analysis of survey data, focus group meetings and district-level IEP data. The Department thanks the following districts for participating in the field test: Albany, North Colonie, Buffalo, Churchville-Chili, Fairport, Hilton, Lynbrook, Warwick, Ballston Spa, Bay Shore, Queensbury, Newark and New York City CSD 18 and 31.


Introduction

The New York State Education Department is committed to ensuring the availability of a full continuum of preschool special education programs and/or services in the least restrictive environment to meet the individual needs of preschool students with disabilities.

Background

In January 1996, the Board of Regents endorsed a number of goals to reform the special education program for preschool students with disabilities. These reforms were based on reports prepared by the Department that identified the strengths and needs of the current administrative structure and implementation of the preschool program. A major goal for reform focused on increasing the delivery of preschool special education programs and services in more integrated educational or natural environments with nondisabled peers.

In 1996, the State Legislature amended New York State Education Law. The new requirements identified the continuum of preschool special education services and more clearly defined the roles of the Committees on Preschool Special Education and evaluation programs in regard to the provision of special education programs and/or services in the least restrictive environment.

The Departmentís Least Restrictive Environment Implementation Policy Paper was approved by the Board of Regents in May 1994 to establish a clear policy on how local education agencies and the State were to implement federal and State requirements relating to the education of students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment (LRE). The 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) substantially strengthened the assurances that State education agencies and local school districts must make regarding the implementation of LRE requirements.

Least Restrictive Environment

Most preschool children with disabilities can receive the special education programs and/or services they need in settings with nondisabled peers. They also should participate in developmentally appropriate activities. The Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) must consider how to provide special education in the least restrictive environment, where a preschool student with a disability can learn close to home with other children of the same age who do not have disabilities. Programs and/or services may be provided at an approved or licensed pre-kindergarten or Head Start program, the work-site of a provider, the student's home, a hospital, a State facility or a child care location.

Preschool Guidance Document

The Guide for Determining Eligibility and Special Education Programs and/or Services for Preschool Students with Disabilities was written to assist professionals in evaluating children with disabilities and developing Individualized Education Programs in the least restrictive environment. This document is also a resource for parents to help them participate as full partners in the educational process for their child. Together, professionals and parents work as a team (CPSE) to determine each child's educational strengths and needs and recommend appropriate special education programs and/or services. This document provides information on assessing a childís educational performance and determining the special education services that are needed (if the child is found eligible), including how often the services are needed and where they will be provided.

This guide is divided into three sections to help users readily find information pertaining to the individual evaluation, eligibility determination and developing the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for eligible students.