Three to Kindergarten

Early Childhood Special Education Services (ECSE) are provided for children ages three through six with disabilities or developmental delays.  Eligibility is determined after an evaluation is completed.


Parents may request an evaluation if they have concerns about their child’s development. Other sources of referrals include early childhood screening, public health nurses, daycares, pre-schools, or your pediatrician. Parent permission and signatures are required in order to complete an evaluation. 

Intake Visit
After a referral is made, staff from the Birth to Three Early Intervention or Early Childhood Special Education program will contact you and arrange to meet you at your house or at our school. We will ask for information from you regarding your child’s early development, strengths, and concerns you may have.

If your child is under three years of age, all areas of development will be assessed. For children three years of age and older, the specific tests used will be determined based on the areas of concern. The assessment process may require several visits.  The amount of time needed will depend on things such as your child’s age, attention span, and the areas of development that are going to be assessed.   

During the assessment process, the following things may occur.

  • The parent/guardian may be asked to fill out some questionnaires in order for us to get more understanding of your child’s skills.  
  • Assessments will be administered that evaluate cognition, speech-language, fine and gross motor, social-emotional, and/or adaptive skills.  
  • An observation will be completed in a familiar setting for your child which could be your home, daycare, or pre-school.  
  • An interview with a parent will be completed to discuss their child’s development, and areas of strength and concerns.
  • Any information from other sources such as testing results from other clinics or agencies will be reviewed with parent/guardian permission. 

A team of people will complete the assessment. Team members may include:

  • An Early Childhood Special Education Teacher may look at how your child understands concepts, problem solves in every day tasks, completes skills such as dressing, eating and toileting, and plays and interacts with others.
  • A Speech and Language Pathologist may evaluate how your child understands language, how they express themselves, and how they produce speech sounds.
  • An Occupational Therapist may look at movement skills, hand use and eye/hand coordination.
  • A School Psychologist may look at how your child thinks and learns and how information is understood. They may also help in assessing your child’s social and self-help skills. 
  • Other team members may include a Physical Therapist, Autism Resource Specialist, Teacher of the Visually Impaired, or a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. 

Evaluation Summary Meeting
After your child’s assessment is complete, we will meet with you to discuss the results. Throughout this process, we will determine if your child is eligible for special education services. Your child must meet state criteria in order to access special education services. When we review the evaluation results, we will discuss several possible outcomes.

If your child does not meet state criteria for services, the staff may give you ideas, suggestions or referrals to other agencies that may be helpful to you.

If your child qualifies for special education services, and you choose to receive services, we will develop a plan that is individualized to your child’s needs.   The plan will include goals that the school team and parents would like to see your child meet in the next six months to a year. 

A child is eligible for early childhood special education services if they meet the criteria for any one of the following disability categories:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Emotional Behavioral Disorder
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing 
  • Other Health Impairment
  • Speech/Language Impairment
  • Visual Impairment
  • Deaf-Blindness
  • Developmental Cognitive Disability
  • Physical Impairment
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Developmental Delay

Many of the children in the ECSE program meet criteria for Developmental Delay meaning that a delay has been identified in two or more areas of development.

  • Cognitive -- ability to think and solve problems
  • Motor – small and large muscle use, eye/hand coordination, visual/perceptual skills.
  • Communication -- ability to understand and use language, including speech sound production.
  • Social/emotional development -- making friends, solving conflicts, expressing feelings, and group participation and behavior.
  • Adaptive development – toileting, eating, dressing skills, and the ability to function in home and school settings.

A child may also be eligible under the category of Developmental Delay if the child has a diagnosed condition that has a high probability of resulting in delay and specific developmental needs have been identified. 

Once a child has been identified as being eligible for Early Childhood Special Education services, an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is written.  The IEP states long and short-term goals for the child, the type of services that will be provided, and where the services will be located.

Services are provided by one or several professionals, depending on your child’s educational needs. One team member will be assigned as the primary contact person for parents.     

Team members on a child’s IEP may include:

  • Early Childhood Special Education Teacher
  • Speech and Language Pathologist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • School Psychologist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Teacher of the Visually Impaired
  • Preschool Teacher
  • School Nurse

Special Education services are provided in a variety of settings at three different locations in the district. Services are currently provided at the Early Learning and Family Resource Center in West St. Paul and Pilot Knob STEM Magnet Elementary School in Eagan.

  • ECSE Small Group ClassroomsThese classrooms meet two or three days per week. There are generally six to nine children in a classroom, all receiving special education services.
  • ECSE Integrated ClassroomsThese classrooms meet two or three days per week. Children with special education needs receive services in a general education setting.
  • Speech/Language Groups - Children who have articulation or communication needs meet one day per week for two hours.
  • Community Settings - The ECSE team supports children attending a community pre-school or day care setting. The Early Childhood Special Education team works collaboratively with the pre-school staff to meet the child’s goals and objectives.  

Please call 651-403-8390, if you have any concerns or questions about your child’s development or would like further information regarding Early Childhood Special Education services.  

If you would like more information, please visit the main Minnesota Department of Education website or their Parents Know website.