Early Childhood Special Education

What is Early Childhood Special Education?

Once a child turns three years of age, the local school district is required to provide special education services for that child. Early childhood classrooms are typically available through the local school district and serve children who are eligible for special education services.

Since public schools are not required to provide preschool education to typically developing 3-5 year olds, the challenge in these classrooms is to expose children with disabilities to their non-disabled peers.

The Center for Parent Information and Resources provides a comprehensive overview of the special education process once a child turns three.

Who is eligible?

The definition of who is eligible for special education services is different for children aged 0-3, so some children may qualify for early intervention, but not early childhood services. Information on the special education eligibility categories is available from the:

How to get services?

Early childhood special education classes are designed to include only children eligible for special education. Children may be transitioned into this classroom from a 0-3 early intervention program or may be found eligible through a Child Find screening and subsequent evaluation. Contact a local Child & Family Connections Office or your local school district for details on screenings.

Contact Us

Johnna Darragh-Ernst

Professor Early Childhood Education

1500 W Raab Road
Normal, IL 61761
Phone: 309-268-8746

Email: johnna.darragh@heartland.edu