You might already know that the Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD) is a great way to get your child ready for kindergarten. The program is designed to support preschool children age 3 through 5, who have disabilities, by giving them a range of services to support their unique educational needs. If you think (or know) that your child has a disability and are wondering how to get your child started in PPCD, we can help. The most important first step is to ask that your child be evaluated for special education services through your local school district.
There are 2 common paths for your child to get into PPCD:
- If your child is not receiving Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) services, you can ask your child’s school district to do an evaluation.
- If your child is receiving ECI services, ECI transition planning should connect your family with your child’s school district.
Preschool Special Education – An Alternative to ECI Services
If your child is between 2 ½ and 5 years old and isn’t receiving ECI services, but you think that special education services might help them, PPCD might be the support your child needs. Read farther down this page for how to qualify, but first:
- Figure out which school district you’re in (if you’re not sure) with the TEA School District Locator map, visit your school district’s website, and find the phone number for their main or special education department.
- Call your school district and ask to talk to the person responsible for “Child Find” or to someone in the special education department. Tell them that your child needs to be evaluated for special education services. Child Find comes from a part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that says school districts must have a process for identifying, locating, and evaluating children with disabilities.
- You should also put this request in writing and mail it to your school district. (Don’t forget to save a copy in a safe place as you organize your school records). Parents – and any person involved in your child’s care or education – can write and ask for this evaluation. This process is called a referral to special education, and you can read more about that or find sample letters to the school in the IDEA handbook on The Arc of Texas website.
- You must sign and return a consent form before your child can have the evaluation.
Transitioning From ECI to PPCD
- Your child will no longer receive ECI services at age 3.
- When your child is between 27 and 33 months old (during the year before their 3rd birthday) and receives ECI services, your child’s ECI team will start preparing a transition plan at the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) meeting. If you’re interested in PPCD services, ask your ECI service coordinator as early as 9 months before your child’s 3rd birthday. The earlier you create a transition plan, the better!
- Your ECI team is supposed to tell the school district at least 90 days before your child’s 3rd birthday. While your child is between 27 and 33 months old, you can schedule a meeting with ECI and someone from your child’s school district to talk about this transition. This meeting should take place in your native language. Let your ECI service coordinator know before the meeting if your family needs an interpreter or translator.
- During this meeting, the person from the school district should let you know what you need to do to get PPCD. They should also answer all of your questions, explain what kind of special education services they offer, and more.
- You will also be given a consent form to sign before your child can have the evaluation for special education services.
- PPCD probably won’t have all the same services that ECI does. Your ECI service coordinator might be able to help you learn how to keep getting some of these services. You can also connect with other parents for ideas.
- ECI and PPCD have different approaches, and that’s useful to remember when you make the switch. ECI is more family-centered and holistic, while PPCD is more child-centered and education-based. For example, your whole family might have been involved during the ECI process, but with PPCD, the focus will shift toward helping your child work independently in a classroom setting.
Qualifying for PPCD
Whichever way your child gets connected to PPCD, the next step is to make sure that they qualify for the program. The school district will check that your child is between 3 and 5 years old, has a disability that qualifies them to receive special education services, and needs these services. They will need to do an evaluation following these steps:
- The school district might do a screening of your child before they do a full evaluation. This will help the district decide what assessments let them figure out your child’s unique educational needs.
- Your child will be evaluated to see if they need special education services. As a parent, you are a part of this evaluation, and it’s an important time to offer your expertise and unique opinions about your child.
- The evaluator (or evaluators) will go through different tasks with your child to see if they have a qualifying disability. You can read more about special education evaluation on the Texas Project First Evaluation web page.
- If your child is approved to get special education services, the next step is to work with the school district in what is called an Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) committee meeting and create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your child.
If Your Child Does Not Qualify
If your child’s evaluation shows that they don’t need special education services, your school district should send something called a Prior Written Notice. This tells you why your child was not approved – and the steps you can take if you disagree with the evaluation. Learn more on When You’re Having Trouble Getting the Right Services for Your Child.