In This Section

Where Will My Child Receive Preschool Special Education Services?


If your child received Early Intervention services prior to turning 3 years old, your child probably received these services in your home or at your child's daycare. This is because federal law specifies that Early Intervention services for children between the ages of 0 and 3 should be provided in the child's "Natural Environment" — typically the home.

Preschool Special Education services are predominantly school-based, rather than home-based, though they can occur in other settings, such as the home, in hospitals and other institutions, and in other settings. IDEA requires that preschool and school-age children with disabilities are educated in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) where they can make progress towards achieving the goals set forth in their Individualized Education Program (IEP). The overall goal is to educate children with disabilities with other children who are not disabled as much as possible. Education outside of the regular education environment occurs only when the severity of a child's disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

For a preschool-age child, the requirement of a LRE placement is often complicated by the fact that most public school programs currently begin at age 5, when children start kindergarten. Very few states and districts offer preschool or pre-kindergarten services to children without special needs or circumstances. Whether or not a school district operates a public preschool program for children without disabilities, the district must make available a full continuum of placements, including regular classes, special needs classes, and special schools, for preschool students in need of special education. When a regular education environment for a preschool student in need of special education is appropriate, a district may place the child in a private preschool program, a community-based childcare facility, or a regular education kindergarten class (not appropriate for a younger preschooler), and provide appropriate supports and services in that inclusive environment. A placement will be considered "regular" if at least 50% of the children in the placement do not have a disability.

There are a number of educational placement options to consider. The IEP team — which includes you, the parent — will decide which placement or placements are most appropriate for your child.

The Center for Autism Research and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia do not endorse or recommend any specific person or organization or form of treatment. The information included within the CAR Autism Roadmap™ and CAR Resource Directory™ should not be considered medical advice and should serve only as a guide to resources publicly and privately available. Choosing a treatment, course of action, and/or a resource is a personal decision, which should take into account each individual's and family's particular circumstances.