Differences Between Early Childhood and Early Intervention Settings
Service settings in early childhood are different than those you might have experienced in early intervention. During early intervention, an emphasis is placed on serving children in their "natural environment."
This means while your child was 0-3 years old, you probably became used to seeing services follow your child to his or her childcare setting, home or wherever your child would naturally be during a given day. Focusing on a child's natural environment makes it easier to keep kids with and without disabilities together.
Once your child turns 3 and is eligible for special education services, the discussion about service settings tends to shift to the various programs available for your child to attend. Because funding for these classrooms is tied to a child's eligibility for such services, children in this age group historically have found themselves in separate classrooms.
While early intervention services might follow the child into a community program, the child will typically follow the early childhood or at-risk services provided by the local school district into an early childhood or at-risk classroom. Finding alternatives to keep children in their natural environment throughout the early childhood years is a current challenge for professionals and parents.