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Early Childhood Special Education


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Early childhood special education services for children, three to five years of age and their families are provided by Area Education Agencies (AEAs) and local school districts.

Professionals, with training and expertise in special education services, implement the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B to support the educational needs of young children and families, three to five years of age. Early childhood special education professionals provide training and serve as a resource to early childhood providers in community settings such as preschool, child care and Head Start programs to meet the developmental learning needs of young children. Also, families and early childhood providers may request information about appropriate expectations for children's development.

Special education information for children ages 3 to 21 years of age is also available via the Special Education tab on the Iowa Department of Education website.

Legal Requirements and Reports

Under IDEA 2004, Individualized Education Plan (IEP) teams, including parents and professionals with expertise in special education, provide specially designed instruction to support preschool children who are determined eligible for special education services. The interventions are designed to enhance the development of children and support the family’s priorities and concerns. To the maximum extent appropriate, special education services are to be provided in early childhood settings with typically developing peers.

Iowa Code section 279.60 requires districts to assess all preschool children with the GOLD online assessment and maintain local agreements with Teaching Strategies, Inc. under the GOLD State Service Umbrella Agreement. Information regarding the assessment guidelines can be found on the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program site.

Preschool Program Standards
Programs providing early childhood special education instructional services must meet one of the following program standards. Each standard is indicative of high quality programming efforts.

Guiding Practices

DEC Recommended Practices-The Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children (DEC) Recommended Practices are a DEC initiative that bridges the gap between research and practice, offering guidance to parents and professionals who work with young children who have or are at risk for developmental delays or disabilities. Through recent collaborative work with the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA), the practices have been revised and updated, and a new set of DEC Recommended Practices is now available.

Early Childhood Inclusion Brochure - Describes what is inclusion, principles of inclusion, and resources supporting inclusion. It also includes information regarding adult learning styles. It was developed to assist in trainings regarding inclusion at both the pre-service and in-service levels.

Inclusion in Early Childhood Programs-The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services released a joint policy statement on September 14, 2015 stating that all young children with disabilities should have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs, where they are provided with individualized and appropriate support in meeting high expectations. Visit the website for additional resources and access the full policy statement here.

Iowa Early Learning Standards/Child Standards
Programs providing early childhood special education instructional services will follow the Iowa Early Learning Standards. These standards identify the knowledge, skills, motivation, and attitudes needed by preschoolers that lead to success as students enter school and as adults. The developmental areas are:

  • physical well-being and motor development
  • approaches to learning
  • social and emotional development
  • communication, language, and literacy
  • mathematics and science
  • creative arts
  • social studies


District Developed Service Delivery Plan - All districts are required to develop a District Developed Service Delivery Plan for Special Education services including early childhood special education. Documents have been developed to assist districts as they develop their plans.

Early Childhood Services in AEAs: A Blueprint for the Future - This document is to facilitate discussion among decision makers at the state, regional and local levels, establish early childhood priorities, and define Area Education Agencies' role in the statewide efforts to build a strong early care, health and education system. Six priorities are addressed in the document.

Contacts in Your Area

AEA Directory

Early Childhood Statewide Leadership Team

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on April 28, 2017 at 8:43am.