Early Childhood Special Educators

Early childhood special education (ECSE) is a federal and state-mandated program for young children with disabilities. ECSE refers to the range of special education services that apply specifically to children between the ages of 3 and 5, prior to kindergarten. Eligible children with disabilities, ages 3-21, are entitled to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) in accordance with their individual needs. In Texas, services for eligible children with disabilities ages 3-5 are provided free of charge through the public school system. Eligible children may receive ECSE services in a variety of settings that may include their home, childcare setting, or a public school, as determined by the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).  

As early childhood special educators, you are knowledgeable about the transition from the IDEA Part C to Part B services, but what do you know about the other IDEA-required transition--the transition from high school exit to adult settings? Early to exit means thinking about post-school outcomes for children from the time they are in early childhood special education to when they exit high school, as opposed to only thinking about postsecondary outcomes when it is required “not later than when the child reaches age 14” (TEC §29.0111). Educators who have an early to exit perspective can help the child have a better transition to adulthood because educational decisions are made from the start, incrementally building the child’s skills needed for success as an adult. As an early childhood special educator, what you do truly has a lasting impact on children and their families. 

Early to exit does not mean that the federal or state requirements have changed to include transition planning during early childhood. The current Texas requirement is to implement transition planning “not later than when the child reaches age 14” (TEC §29.0111). Early to exit means discussions about the future begin at the ECSE and elementary school levels. When early to exit discussions occur, families and educators can make decisions and problem-solve potential barriers a child may encounter as they progress through school and then to adult life. The ECSE and elementary school expectations, goals, services, and curriculum we choose can and does impact the child’s life after they leave school. Providing information and resources that promote the discussion and decision-making process for families and educators is an essential element of planning across the lifespan from early to exit.

The links below are for ECSE educators to share with families who are learning about disability and disability resources.

Navigate Life Texas
Navigate Life Texas has resources and support for families of children with disabilities and special health care needs. Families can learn more about specific disabilities and what to do after getting a diagnosis.

Parent Companion
Parent Companion was written by parents to provide support and information to Texas families of children from birth through 5 years of age who have diagnosed or suspected disabilities. Families can find information on developmental milestones, agencies that assist families, and what to do after getting a diagnosis.

Partners Resource Network
Partners Resource Network operates the Texas statewide network of Parent Training and Information Centers that provide resources on issues pertinent to parents such as understanding their child’s disability, understanding their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, and how to obtain services.

Sibling Leadership Network
The Sibling Leadership Network provides siblings of individuals with disabilities the information, support, and tools to advocate with their brothers and sisters. Siblings can connect with other siblings and learn about topics such as supported decision-making and future planning. 

SPEDTex: Parent Resources
The Special Education Information Center (SPEDTex) provides resources to support the development and delivery of services to children with disabilities in Texas. Parents can explore the resources on this link to discover ways they can get support and be involved in their child’s education. 

Texas Education Agency: Early Childhood Education Family Resources
This link leads to the Texas Education Agency’s resource page for parents of students in early childhood programs. You can share the information and resources found on this website with your students’ families.

Texas Family to Family Network: Parent Resources
Family to Family Network provides families with information on special education, referrals to community resources, and trainings on disability topics. This link takes you to the “Parent Resources” page, where educators can obtain information about disabilities, IEP support, medical and community support, and more for their students’ families.

Texas Parent to Parent
Texas Parent to Parent (TxP2P) uses a parent-to-parent peer model to provide support, information, and education to families and educators. The website has information about their resources and trainings.

Texas Project FIRST: Transition to Preschool from ECI
This page from Texas Project FIRST (created for parents by parents) provides information about the transition from early childhood intervention (ECI) to early childhood special education. The homepage also has many other informational resources, too.

Independent living services help people with disabilities achieve greater independence in the home and community. Many programs for people with disabilities require documentation of disability and services may be limited, so it is important for families to understand these community supports and how to access these services. The sites below will help you provide families with information about the services that are available to help their child become an active part of their community.

Texas Health and Human Services: Disability
The disability section of the Texas Health and Humans Services website has information pertaining to people who have disabilities, including information about federal programs such as Medicaid, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income. There is also information about programs and services for specific disabilities such as brain injury, autism, visual impairments, hearing impairments, intellectual disability, and medical or physical disabilities.

Texas Health and Human Services: Independent Living Services
Independent living services are provided by centers for independent living (CILs), which are located throughout the state. CILs are not residential living centers. CILs help people with disabilities achieve greater independence in their homes and communities by providing information and referrals, skills training, goals counseling, advocacy training, and transition services. This website has links to all the CILs in Texas and describes who is eligible for independent living services and the type of services available.  

Texas Health and Human Services: Local Intellectual and Developmental Disability Authority
The Local Intellectual and Developmental Disability Authority (LIDDA) provides services and supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and enrolls eligible individuals into Medicaid programs. On this website, you can find detailed information about the services provided by LIDDAs.

Texas Health and Human Services: Local Mental Health Authorities/Local Behavioral Health Authorities
Community mental health services are provided through Local Mental Health Authorities/Local Behavioral Health Authorities (LMHA/LBHA), also referred to as community mental health centers. The LMHAs/LBHAs provide services to a specific geographic area of the state, called the local service area. You can find contact information for all the community mental health centers in Texas on this website. 

Your Texas Benefits
This website has information about state benefit programs that help people with and without disabilities who have little or no money get access to basic needs such as food, health care, and support services.