Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE)

Special Education services are available for children ages birth to kindergarten entrance who meet state criteria for one of a variety of disabilities. Eligibility is determined through an evaluation process, conducted by school staff, at no cost to parents. If a child is found eligible for special education services, an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) for children ages birth to three or an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for children ages three and older is written to address the child’s special education needs. Parents are part of the IFSP/IEP team. For children birth-three, services almost always take place in the child’s natural environment – the home or day care setting. For children ages three to kindergarten entrance, service location may vary depending on the child’s needs (i.e. 1:1 speech-language therapy, services in a Community Preschool, Head Start, or Day Care center, where the child with special needs participates with typically-developing peers, and/or a small group setting with other children with special needs). Services are individualized for all children. Depending on the child’s identified disability and needs, one or more of the following services may be provided: Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) services, Speech-Language therapy, Occupational therapy, Physical therapy, services for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing, and/or services for the Blind/Visually Impaired. Regardless of the age of the child, parents are a very important part of the child’s evaluation and service team!

When children transition from home-based services (on an IFSP) to school-based services (on an IEP), a transition meeting is held so that parents know what to expect regarding service options as their child approaches three years of age. Likewise, for children who are receiving special education services as preschoolers and who will be entering kindergarten in the fall, transition meetings are held with families and with staff at the elementary building where the child will be attending kindergarten. The goal in both of these situations is to make the transition process as smooth as possible for families and for the child. Parents are important partners in this process! 

How to refer a child: Anyone can make a referral for a child for whom there are concerns – parents, professionals, friends, family members, others. They can do so by contacting the state-wide Help Me Grow referral system at:  http://helpmegrowmn.org/HMG/Refer/index.htm.

Referrals can also be made directly to the school district.  For children ages birth to three years of age, call the Birth-Three office at 651-306-7575.

For referrals for children ages three to kindergarten entrance or questions regarding early childhood services, contact Brenda Alsterlund, Lead Teacher, Early Childhood Special Education at 651-306-7313 or send an email to: