Preschool Special Education
Preschool special education services are available for children with disabilities or delays in development that affect learning. If your child is showing delays in any of the following areas, he or she may be eligible for services:
- Thinking and learning
- Understanding and using language
- Self-help skills (toileting, eating, dressing)
- Social-emotional (getting along with others, expressing feelings)
- Physical (vision, hearing, movement)
Age and Dates
Children can begin receiving preschool services during the year in which they turn 3 years old. The exact date depends on your child’s birth date.
- Born January 1-June 30 services can start on January 2 of the year he or she turns 3
- Born July 1- December 31 services can start on July 1 of the year he or she turns 3.
Children can continue to receive services through the year in which they turn 5 years old and become eligible for school-age special education.
The Preschool Special Education Process
The Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) is responsible for coordinating the process for children ages 3 to 5. CPSEs work with families in the district where a family lives. There are 10 CPSEs in different areas of the city. Each CPSE is part of a larger Committee on Special Education (CSE) office. A Chairperson oversees the office, including the CPSE in it. Click here for CPSE contact information.
If you don’t know what district you live in, call 311 or use School Search.
The preschool evaluation process for special education services is similar to the school-age process. See the links and information below for more details on each step of the process:
Transitioning from Early Intervention (EI)
Some children may already be receiving services through the Early Intervention (EI) program, which serves children from birth to age three. If you would like your child to receive special education services after EI ends, you must refer your child to the CPSE (see "Making a Referral" above). Your EI service coordinator can help you with this process.
EI services are scheduled to end on a child’s third birthday. At least six months before your child turns 3, your EI service coordinator should begin supporting you with the transition process. If the CPSE holds a meeting before your child’s third birthday and finds your child eligible,
- You can choose to end EI services and begin preschool special education services, or
- You can extend your child’s EI services
- If your child’s third birthday is between January 1 and August 31: your child can continue receiving EI services until August 31.
- If your child’s third birthday is between September 1 and December 31: your child can continue EI services until December 31.
Preschool Special Education Services
There is a range of education and related services available to support preschool students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Services will always be provided in your child's least restrictive environment (LRE). This means that your child will receive his or her programs and services in a setting with non-disabled peers to the greatest extent appropriate. The team will first consider whether your child's needs can be met in a general education setting. Other settings, such as a special class in an integrated setting or special class, are considered only if your child would not be able to make meaningful progress in a general education class, even with the help of supports and services. LRE also considers the intensity of support provided with related services and paraprofessional recommendations.
Services can include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, counseling, orientation and mobility services, hearing, vision, and health services. Related services support academic goals. For more information read the parent letter that outlines the process for arranging related services
Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT): A SEIT is a special education teacher who works closely with a student on academic, emotional, and social skills. This service can be delivered in small groups or one-on-one in the general education classroom or child care location selected by the parent.
Special Class in an Integrated Setting (Half and Full Day) (SCIS): This is a program in which students with and without IEPs are educated together. A SCIS class includes a special education teacher and classroom paraprofessional, and may have additional staff. Staff members work together to adapt and modify instruction for students with IEPs to ensure access to the general education curriculum.
Special Class (Half and Full Day): This is a program that only serves students with IEPs whose needs cannot be met within the general education setting or SCIS classroom. Students in a special class have similar levels of academic and learning characteristics, social development, physical development and/or management needs. Special classes are led by a special education teacher and often have one or more paraprofessionals. There are generally 6-12 students in a special class.
Residential Placement: A residential placement is a special education program provided for a minimum of five hours per day, five days per week by a state-approved program at a site where children receive care 24 hours per day. This program is for children whose needs require 24-hour attention.
Additional Supports and Services: Include a 1:1 paraprofessional, assistive technology, bilingual services, behavior supports, and special education bussing.
Enrollment and Placement
Enrollment in a program is based on a student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) and age.
Children Recommended for Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) and/or Related Services:
- If your child is 4 years old, he or she can receive services at a NYC Department of Education (DOE) general education pre-K program, and you should apply through the pre-K admissions process.
- If your child is 3 or 4 years old, he or she can receive services at a preschool program, Head Start, hospital, state facility, or child care location selected by the parent, or the home if determined appropriate.
Children Recommended for Special Class or Special Class in an Integrated Setting:
- You should work with your CPSE to find an appropriate placement in a preschool special education program.
For more information, read the admissions flyer found under preschool.
If your child's IEP recommends special class or special class in an integrated setting (SCIS), you child will be offered transportation to and from the program.
If your child’s IEP recommends related services, and those services are provided at your child’s preschool, child care program, or home, the DOE will not provide transportation. If your child’s related services are provided at a related service agency because the CPSE was unable to arrange for the services to be provided at your child’s preschool, child care program or home, and if transportation to the site is needed, the CPSE will provide or fund transportation to the agency. For more information on transportation reimbursement, visit the related services page (scroll to bottom of the page).
Contacts and Resources
Helpful resources, like the CPSE Process and Key Terms and Acronyms, can be found on the Guides and Documents page under preschool.
Click here for helpful DOE contacts
Click here for helpful outside resources (listed under preschool and early childhood)
- If you have questions about your child's preschool services, first contact your CPSE.
- Early Childhood Direction Centers (ECDCs) provide free confidential information and referral for families and professionals.Early Childhood Direction Centers (ECDCs)
Transition to Kindergarten
An important goal of preschool special education is to prepare a child to enter and succeed in kindergarten. Children enter kindergarten in September of the calendar year when they turn 5 years old. The kindergarten transition process begins the school year before kindergarten while a child is in preschool.
Providers and Programs
Special education resources for preschools providers and programs can be found on the Provider Resources
page under letter P. All relevant resources begin with preschool.