It can be hard to think about your child growing up and starting school, especially when they are still so young. The Early Childhood Special Education program can give young children with disabilities important help in their education. ECSE has free services through your child’s school district for children who meet the requirements. These services can happen in different places, like a public school, a preschool or at Head Start. They might include classroom time or speech, occupational and physical therapies. If you‘re interested in getting ECSE services, we have helpful tips and facts on this page and on the Getting ECSE Services page.
The ECSE program used to be called the Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities or PPCD until 2019.
A child getting ECSE services might be in a:
Read more on the Texas Project First ECSE page about your choices and what your child might learn. You can also ask your school district about choices for your child and family.
The first step to special education services like ECSE is a school district evaluation. If you believe the evaluation missed something, you can ask for another assessment to see if your child is approved to get more services. Consider asking for a written copy of this evaluation. If you disagree with the school’s evaluation, the school might pay for one outside evaluation. You can learn more about your rights on our When You’re Having Trouble Getting the Right Services for Your Child page.
If your child is approved for ECSE, they might be able to get different special education services and therapies to help them reach their Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals. Their evaluation decides what therapies and services they can get. If your child is approved, these are free. ECSE services can include:
Beyond this list, there are even more services that might be able to help your child. Parent Companion has a longer list. Again, ask your school district what they have – or what they can help you find.
You might want ECSE support from the school district and want your child to go to a Head Start or private preschool program in the community. This is called dual enrollment. Dual enrollment is only for children 3 or 4 years old. It is a way to get ECSE services, such as speech or occupational therapy, through your local school district. ECSE does not pay for your child to go to another preschool program but still gives your child ECSE services for free. You can read more on the Texas Project First Dual Enrollment web page. You can also ask the person responsible for “Child Find” at your school district about your choices.
“We knew our son was developmentally delayed, so we took him to our school district to be evaluated. It was a 30-minute evaluation and they told us he did not qualify for the [ECSE] program. Five months later, we got an autism diagnosis for [him], and then we had him re-evaluated by the school district. He was then accepted into the [ECSE] program. So, don’t give up if you think your child needs services.”