Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE)
Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) services are designed for children three through five years of age and their families, and are provided through local school districts, charter schools, and special education cooperatives. Eligible children with disabilities are entitled to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) in accordance with their individual needs. Over 40,000 children in Texas receive individualized special education services each year as a part of IDEA 619 Preschool.
Early childhood professionals and related services personnel provide developmentally appropriate individualized educational services to children with disabilities in a variety of settings such as early childhood, preschool, child care, Head Start, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and other early childhood settings. Professionals with training and expertise in special education implement ECSE services by supporting the educational needs of young children and families.
In 2009, the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) issued a Joint Position Statement that gave a much needed definition for early childhood inclusion.
"Early childhood inclusion embodies the values, policies, and practices that support the right of every infant and young child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society. The desired results of inclusive experiences for children with and without disabilities and their families include: A sense of belonging and membership, positive social relationships and friendships, and the development and learning to reach their full potential. The defining features of inclusion that can be used to identify high-quality early childhood programs and services are access, participation, and support."
In addition, the US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Education set a vision for early childhood inclusion in their 2015 policy statement Inclusion of Children With Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs. It states “Inclusion in early childhood programs refers to including children with disabilities in early childhood programs, together with their peers without disabilities; holding high expectations and intentionally promoting participation in all learning and social activities, facilitated by individualized accommodations; and using evidence-based services and supports to foster their development (cognitive, language, communication, physical, behavioral, and social-emotional), friendships with peers, and sense of belonging." This applies to all young children with disabilities, from those with the mildest disabilities, to those with the most significant disabilities.