Early Childhood Special Education

  • Providing Early Intervention Services to Young Children
    Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) provides early intervention services to young children, from birth to kindergarten, who show a developmental delay in one or more of these areas:

    Speech and Language

    • Large and Fine Motor Skills

    • Social, Emotional and Behavior Skills

    • Cognitive and/or Adaptive Skills

    • Vision or Hearing Loss

    To learn more about a child's developmental stages, ages birth to 5, view the Help Me Grow website.

    The process for a child to be considered for ESCE services starts with a referral, which is often made by a child's parents, preschool screening at their doctor. Next an evaluation planning meeting is scheduled to determine areas of concern and if an evaluation is warranted. Then, an evaluation is conducted to determine eligibility and to identify specific needs. If a child does qualify for services, ECSE teachers and specialists work with the child and parents to improve skills in the areas of need.

    Concerns About Your Child's Development?
    If you have concerns about the development of your infant, toddler, or preschool-age child, you may make a referral for an evaluation. The evaluation, provided through the district, is free. To refer a child ages birth to 5-years-old and not yet enrolled in kindergarten, contact Help Me Grow at 1-866-693-4769 or complete the online referral form. Other professionals and individuals, including friends and family members, may also refer a child to Help Me Grow.

    Sometimes referrals are made after an early childhood screening has been done. This screening looks at how well a child is developing. The State of Minnesota requires a health and developmental screening for every child before s/he enters kindergarten in a public and some private schools. The ideal age for screening is 3- to 4-years-old. This age range enables us to address health and development concerns a year or two before a child starts kindergarten. After the screening, some children may be referred to ECSE for further evaluation and possible service.

    Columbia Heights Public Schools offers free early childhood screening. Call 763-528-4517 to set up an appointment.

    Determining the Need for Services

    The Evaluation
    In Minnesota, a child must meet certain criteria to receive special education services; however, a child under the age of 3 could be eligible for ECSE services because s/he has a condition or disorder that is likely to result in a developmental delay, even if that delay is not yet evident. An evaluation is used to decide if a child has an educational disability and meets the Minnesota criteria. A child could have a disability in one or more of the following areas:

    - Autism Spectrum Disorders
    - Blind/Visually Impaired
    - Deaf/Hard of Hearing
    - Deaf/Blindness
    - Developmental Cognitive Disability
    - Developmental Delay
    - Emotional or Behavioral Disorder
    - Other Health Disabilities
    - Physical Impairment
    - Severely Multiply Impaired
    - Specific Learning Disability
    - Speech-Language Impairment
    - Visual Impairment
    - Traumatic Brain Injury


    After the Evaluation
    At a conference, the school team and parents discuss the evaluation results. They use the results to determine whether the child is eligible for services in one or more of the disability areas. If the child is eligible and shows a need for special education, they explore service options.

    When the team decides that special education services are needed, the ECSE staff, with parent input, develops an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Special education services can be provided as long as a child is eligible for services. For some children, services may be one year or less, while other children may need services for longer periods of time.

    If a child does not show a delay in development or does not meet the eligibility criteria, the ECSE team will suggest ways parents can continue to support their child's development. These suggestions may include community resources such as Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE), preschool, community recreation activities and others.

    Providing ECSE Services

    From Birth to Age 3
    Infants and children up to 3-years-old receive early intervention services. The child's parents and service providers develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) based on the child's needs. This plan describes the specific services the child and family will receive.

    Typically, a primary service provider, with parent/caregiver involvement, delivers the ECSE services and support in the child's home. A licensed ECSE teacher, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist and/or physical therapist may provide the services depending on the child's needs.

    From Age 3 to Kindergarten
    Children ages 3 to the start of kindergarten receive early childhood special education services to meet individual developmental needs. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) plan, developed by parents and service providers, describes the services the child will receive.

    Based on a child's needs, services and support are typically provided in the ECSE program at the Family Center or one of the district's elementary schools. A variety of classes, addressing the differing needs of children, are taught by licensed ECSE teachers and/or speech-language pathologists. Occupational therapists, physical therapists, autism specialists, school psychologists and school nurses also provide support as needed.


    Marcia Walker, Educational Support Coordinator
    763-528-4431 | WalkerM@colheights.k12.mn.us
    1440 49th Avenue NE, Columbia Heights, MN 55421