Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE)

ECSE TTAC staff members are part of a statewide system that supports professionals providing special education services to children, birth through kindergarten age, in a variety of settings. Staff members collaborate with community partners including early childhood interventionists and agencies, schools, and programs. They provide professional development and technical assistance to staff of these organizations to facilitate the knowledge and use of effective, research-based practices in early childhood special education. TTAC support addresses practices that foster the inclusion of young students with disabilities in environments with their non-disabled peers with an emphasis on early learning standards, including early literacy, mathematics, and other curricula. Additionally, the TTAC staff assists educators in increasing positive student outcomes, particularly on the early childhood indicators addressed in Virginia’s State Performance Plan.

  • Preschool


    Preschool refers to services for children from 3 through 5 years of age. Early Childhood Special Education services are offered through the public school systems in the state of Virginia and are sometimes referred to as Part B services. Children receiving special education services under Part B have an IEP (Individualized Education Program).

    The state of Virginia has developed Virginia Foundation Blocks for Early Learning. The purpose of this document is to provide early childhood educators a set of minimum standards in literacy, mathematics, science, history and social science, physical and motor skill development, and personal and social development with indicators of success for entering kindergarten that are derived from scientifically-based research. The standards reflect a consensus of children's conceptual learning, acquisition of basic knowledge, and participation in meaningful and relevant learning experiences.

    Virginia Foundation Blocks for Early Learning


    IEP: NECTAC: National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center

    Developing High-Quality, Functional IFSP Outcomes and IEP Goals Training Package. http://www.nectac.org/knowledgepath/ifspoutcomes-iepgoals/ifspoutcomes-iepgoals.asp

  • Early Intervention


    Early Intervention refers to services for children from 0 through 2 years of age and is sometimes referred to as Part C services. Part C is a $436 million program administered by States that serves infants and toddlers through age 2 with developmental delays or who have diagnosed physical or mental conditions with high probabilities of resulting in developmental delays. Children receiving early intervention services under Part C have an IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan) driven by family priorities.



    The IEP is an educational document that focuses on the educational needs of the child while the IFSP focuses on the child and the family and the services that the family needs to aid in their child’s development. An IEP is a public school system document and the IFSP is an early intervention document. For a more expanded explanation see: www.pacer.org/parent/php/PHP-c59.pdf

  • Child Find


    Region 4 has a Child Find Community of Practice that meets monthly. For more information contact the Early Childhood Coordinators at George Mason University: 703-993.4496. For a complete list of Child Find representatives in each school district refer to Frequently Asked Questions under "What should be done if there are concerns about a child's development in Region 4?".

    Child Find is a continuous process of public awareness activities, screening and evaluation designed to locate, identify, and refer as early as possible all young children with disabilities and their families who are in need of Early Intervention Program (Part C) or Preschool Special Education (Part B/619) services of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)

    Both Part B and Part C of IDEA contain explicit requirements for states to actively identify children and determine their eligibility for services.

    Part B of IDEA (34CFR§§ 300.111) requires a state to have policies and procedures to ensure that all children with disabilities including children with disabilities who are homeless or are wards of the state and children with disabilities attending private schools, regardless of the severity of their disability, are birth to age 21 and are in need of special education and related services including children attending private schools and migrant or homeless children, are "identified, located and evaluated." Children who are suspected of being a child with a disability under Sec. 300.8 and in need of special education, even though they are advancing from grade to grade and highly mobile children, including migrant children.

    Part C requires each state to have a "comprehensive child find system" with the purpose of finding children birth to age three as early as possible. The system must be consistent with Part B but also meets the additional requirements of (34CFR§§ 303.321). For Part C, the lead agency with the assistance of the state interagency coordinating council ensures that the system is coordinated with all other major efforts to locate and identify young children by other state health, education, social service and tribal agencies. This comprehensive system addresses the definition of eligibility for the state, the public awareness program, central directory, screening and referral, timelines for agencies to act on referrals, evaluation and assessment. It targets primary referral sources including hospitals, physicians, parents, daycare providers, local education agencies, public health facilities, other social service providers and other medical providers.

  • Transition


    Transition is the term used to describe the change that occurs in a child’s educational environments, addressing special needs. Most families of young children use and move between different types of early childhood services -- like Head Start, private child care, public preschool, or kindergarten. Moving between and among these various programs is often referred to as ’transition’.” In early intervention, it occurs prior to the child’s third birthday, when the child moves from early intervention and is considered for public school system services. For the preschooler, it is the transition leaving the early childhood program and moving to a school-age program.

  • Inclusive Practices


    Inclusive practices are those in which children with and without special needs play, participate and learn together with supports and adaptations in the natural environment/preschool program to meet the needs of all children. The Division of Early Childhood (DEC), a chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children, (CEC) and National Association for the Education of All Young Children (NAEYC) joint position statement defines inclusion as follows:

    Early childhood inclusion embodies the values, policies, and practices that support the right of every infant and young child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society. The desired results of inclusive experiences for children with and without disabilities and their families include a sense of belonging and membership, positive social relationships and friendships, and development and learning to reach their full potential. The defining features of inclusion that can be used to identify high quality early childhood programs and services are access, participation, and supports.

    The state of Virginia supports these practices through a number of initiatives including the following:

  • Social Emotional Competencies


    The developing capacity of the child from birth through five…

    to form close and secure relationships; experience, regulate, and express emotions in socially and culturally appropriate ways; and explore the environment and learn - all in the context of family, community, and culture.

  • Executive Function


    Executive function skills help us to focus on multiple streams of information at the same time and revise plans as necessary. A new evidence base has identified these skills as being essential for school achievement, success in work, and healthy lives. The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University has published a new two-page summary, InBrief: Executive Function: Essential Skills for Life and Learning (2012), outlining how these skills develop, what can disrupt their development, and how supporting them pays off in school and life. Link Here

    See also, the Center's related 5-minute video, Executive Function: Skills for Life and Learning (2012), as well as a new online training module to help early care and education providers better understand and support the development of executive function skills, produced by the Washington State Department of Early Learning, in collaboration with the Center's Frontiers of Innovation initiative. Link here

  • Literacy


    Early language and literacy (reading and writing) development begins in the first three years of life and is closely linked to a child's earliest experiences with books and stories. The interactions that young children have with such literacy materials as books, paper, and crayons, and with the adults in their lives are the building blocks for language, reading and writing development. This relatively new understanding of early literacy development complements the current research supporting the critical role of early experiences in shaping brain development.

  • Mathematics


    The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) affirm that high-quality, challenging, and accessible mathematics education for 3- to 6-year-old children is a vital foundation for future mathematics learning. In every early childhood setting, children should experience effective, research-based curriculum and teaching practices. Such high-quality class¬room practice requires policies, organizational supports, and adequate resources that enable teachers to do this challenging and important work.

    Early childhood mathematics includes Number and Number Sense, Computation, Measurement, Geometry, Data Collection and Statistics, Patterns and Relationships

  • Guidelines and Regulations


    Rules and regulations that govern timelines, composition of IEP and IFSP teams, transitions and all other special education regulations.

  • Helpful Agencies


    United States Department of Education Early Intervention (Part C)

    United States Department of Education Early Childhood (Part B)

    Virginia Early Intervention Professional Development Center

    American Academy of Pediatrics

    Council for Exceptional Children -Division for Early Childhood (DEC)

    Head Start Center for Inclusion

    Early Head Start National Resource Center

    Gesell Institute of Child Development

    Infant and Toddler Connection of Virginia

    National Association for the Education of Young Children

    Smart Beginnings

    Zero to Three

    CLASP (Center for Law and Social Policy, Inc.)

    Headstart- An office of the Administration for Children and Families, Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center

  • Frequently Asked Questions


    What should a child know before entering kindergarten?

    The Virginia Department of Education has information that describes specific indicators for pre-kindergarten children in the content areas of reading, mathematics, science, social studies, physical and motor development and personal and social development called Virginia Foundation Blocks http://www.doe.virginia.gov/instruction/early_childhood/preschool_initiative/foundationblocks.pdf

    What are the stages of child development?

    There are many sites that give guidelines for a child's development: Virginia Department of Social Services, Virginia's Early Childhood Development Alignment Project, www.dss.virginia.gov or www.vcpd.net

    What should be done if there are concerns about a child's development in Region 4?

    Each school division has an agency to help you with those concerns. Contact the local Child Find office in your area.

    What is Part C?

    Part C is a $436 million program administered by States that serves infants and toddlers through age 2 with developmental delays or who have diagnosed physical or mental conditions with high probabilities of resulting in developmental delays

    What is Part B?

    Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) governs how special education and related services are provided to school age children with disabilities.

    Since the enactment of the original legislation in 1975, children and youth (ages 3-22) receive special education and related services under Part B of IDEA. Part B is so named because it's the second part of the law itself. Its four parts are:

    • Part A — General Provisions
    • Part B — Assistance for Education of All Children with Disabilities
    • Part C — Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities
    • Part D — National Activities to Improve Education of Children with Disabilities

    Where can I get more information on addressing behavioral needs?

    There are several sites that have information on behavior for young children: The Center on Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL), the Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children (TACSEI) and the Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation.

    What do I need to look for in a quality early childhood program?

    Virginia's commitment to quality in early childhood development utilizes common standards and a quality rating and improvement system.

    Standards are agreed-upon frameworks that define expectations. Virginia has developed:

    Virginia's Star Quality Initiative was created to offer a market-based solution to facilitate quality consistency among early childhood programs, support continuous qualityimprovement in partnership with public and private early education providers, and encourage a continuum of care and education throughout various provider settings, so that all children arrive in kindergarten ready to succeed.

    Virginia's Star Quality Initiative is administered in partnership between the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation and the Office of Early Childhood Development.

    What do all the Acronyms stand for?

    The following is a list of most frequently used acronyms:

    ASD Autism Spectrum Disorder
    CEC Council for Exceptional Children
    CELL Center for Early Literacy Learning
    CSEFEL Center on the Social and  Emotional Foundation for Early Learning
    DEC Division of Early Childhood
    ECE Early Childhood Education
    EI Early Intervention
    EIPD Early Intervention Professional Development
    ECSE Early Childhood Special Education
    ICC Interagency Coordinating Council
    IEP Individualized Education Program
    IFSP Individualized Family Service Plan
    IPOP Inclusive Placement Opportunities for Preschoolers
    NAEYC National Association for the Education of Young Children
    Part B Assistance for Education of All Children with Disabilities
    Part C Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities
    ITC Infant Toddler Connection
    NPDC National Professional Development Center
    TACSEI Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children
    VDOE Virginia Department of Education

    What is the difference between an IFSP and an IEP?

    The IEP is an educational document that focuses on the educational needs of the child while the IFSP focuses on the child and the family and the services that the family needs to aid in their child's development. For a more expanded explanation see: http://www.pacer.org/parent/php/PHP-c59.pdf

    How are children served who live in one district and attend childcare in another one?

    The state guidelines state:

    If the location of the administration of the private school in which the child attends is different from the school division in which the private school is located, the school division in which the private school is located and which the child attends is responsible for the child find activities. http://www.doe.virginia.gov/special_ed/regulations/state/regs_speced_disability_va.pdf 8VAC20-81-50. Child find.

  • Professional Development


    Resources for early childhood educators to support growth and development, including web resources, conferences and presentations.