Early Childhood Learning / Special Education / Ages 2-7

5 Tips for Making the Transition from Early Intervention to Preschool

Early intervention ends on a child’s 3rd birthday. How can you make sure your child continues to get the support they need?

When your child turns 3, the in-home therapies they’ve received through Early Intervention will end. At that point, if your child qualifies for special education, they will transition to receiving support in their preschool classroom.

But making that leap can be overwhelming for families: Your child will need to be evaluated by your public school’s special education team. Then there will be several meetings to determine the types of support they need before they’ll be enrolled in school. (Learn more about those steps here.) While the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) lays out guidelines for that process, delays aren’t uncommon.

Our Navigators recommend a few strategies to make sure your child doesn’t fall through the cracks in the transition between EI and school-based support:


Have a conversation with your EI therapist before your child’s third birthday.

Not all children who receive EI services will need special education in preschool. For many young children, a little bit of extra support in the early years is all they need. But if you think your child will need continued support in school, acting early is important in order to avoid gaps in important therapies and services.


Know your rights.

IDEA, a federal law, includes specific timelines for the process of getting special education services for your child. For example, IDEA states that your school district has 30 school days to complete the evaluation process after you’ve requested an evaluation and signed the consent form. That doesn’t always happen—but it’s good to know what the school district is legally required to do. If you notice a key date has passed, call your school district again and let them know that you’re still waiting. The law also requires your school district to communicate with you in your primary language, including providing an interpreter for IEP meetings.


Communicate in writing whenever possible, and save everything.

If possible, communicate with your school district in writing so all your requests are documented. For phone calls, keep notes including the dates of each conversation and the names of the person you talked to. A quick follow-up email after a phone call can also be a good way to keep things moving.


Ask questions.

You might hear a lot of new words and phrases in IEP meetings or other conversations about special education. Ask questions and make sure you understand everything. It’s your right to know everything that will be offered and expected for your child. (Here’s a list of common terms you might hear.) Remember that the IEP is the blueprint for all the support your child will receive in school. So you should not sign it until you are comfortable with what is included.


Be persistent.

Sometimes school districts are under-staffed, or team members are on leave or vacation. Delays happen. Don’t be afraid to keep calling and emailing until the process moves along. Your child has the right to receive the services they need to thrive in school. You aren’t bothering anyone by requesting those services.

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