Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE)

Services for Texas Students with Disabilities Ages 3-5

Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) is a federal and state mandated program for young children with disabilities It refers to the range of special education services that apply specifically to children between the ages of 3 and 5, prior to kindergarten. Eligible children with disabilities, ages 3-21, 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. In Texas, services for eligible children with disabilities ages 3-5 are provided free of charge through the public-school system. Eligible children may receive Early Childhood special education services in a variety of settings such as Pre-Kindergarten, resource, and self-contained classrooms or in community settings such as Head Start and pre-school.

State Resources 

Below are state resources for students with disabilities ages 3-5:  

  • The Early Transition Memorandum of Understanding (PDF 108 KB) defines roles and responsibilities between the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Division for ECI and the TEA within federal and state mandates. It coordinates an effective system of procedures between ECI and the TEA which guide and support transition services for families of children with disabilities who are approaching age three. 

  • Key Elements of Early Transition provides guidance for the smooth transition of children and their families who leave Early Childhood Intervention services and enter public school services.

National Resources 

Below are national resources for students with disabilities ages 3-5:  

  • The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center supports the implementation of the early childhood provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The center's mission is to strengthen service systems to ensure that children with disabilities (birth through five) and their families receive and benefit from high quality, culturally appropriate, and family-centered supports and services. 
  • The Division for Early Childhood (DEC) promotes policies and advances evidence-based practices that support families and enhance the optimal development of young children (0-8) who have or are at risk for developmental delays and disabilities. 

Related Links 

Below are related links to outside resources for students with disabilities ages 3-5:  

  • The  Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) Early Childhood Intervention Program serves Texas families who have babies and toddlers with disabilities or developmental delays. A statewide listing of ECI Programs listed by county is available from ECI. 

  • Head Start is a child development program that has served low-income children and their families since 1965. The Head Start Bureau maintains this website as an electronic resource for Head Start service providers, parents, volunteers, community organizations, and others who share an interest in helping children look forward to a brighter future. 

  • The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Child-Care Licensing Division is responsible for protecting the health, safety, and well-being of children who attend or reside in regulated child-care facilities and homes. 

  • Texas Project First has developed this parent-friendly, bilingual website to provide consistent, accurate information to help parents understand special education issues and become more effective participants in their child’s education process. This website is a project of the Texas Education Agency.