Transitioning out of the Early Intervention (EI) system and into the school system happens at age three here in the United States. This transition should be discussed from the start of your child’s time in EI in their Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).
If you’re unfamiliar with EI and want to know more about the process and learn how an IFSP can help your child, check out my video Early Intervention Services and Autism: What You Need to Know.
As the parent, you may feel alone and unprepared during your first meeting with the school’s special education team. Here’s a quick overview of the process to boost your confidence as you incorporate this new element into Your Autism Game Plan.
Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse’s 5 Steps to Leaving the Early Intervention Program
Illinois EI Clearinghouse does a great job detailing the steps involved in the transition from EI to preschool. You can download their Transition Tip Sheet to learn more about each step listed here.
- Sign a Consent Form for Referral
- Attend a Transition Planning Conference
- Participate in an Evaluation
- Determine Eligibility and Plan Your Child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP)
- Preparing Your Child and Family for Transition
Transitioning from an Individualized Family Service Plan to an Individualized Education Plan
When your child is in Early Intervention their struggles, strengths, goals, and benchmarks are documented in an Individualized Family Service Plan. When they transition into the school system those details are outlined in an Individualized Education Plan.
An IEP is a legal record that documents your child’s present levels of performance. It’s reviewed yearly to make sure your child is receiving supports in line with their current functioning. An IEP includes:
- Present levels of performance
- Measurable goals and objectives
- A schedule for reporting progress
- Which therapies your child will receive in school, including frequency and location
- Classroom placement
- Health concerns or needs
- Classroom supports and accommodations
You should know it is your legal right as a parent to request an IEP meeting with your child’s team at any time should you have questions or concerns about their educational programming.
Check out Understood.org’s article Knowing What’s in an IEP for a more in-depth look at the IEP process and its components.
Determining Classroom Placement
One important component of an IEP is classroom placement. At the beginning of the IEP process, have your child’s district review placement options with you.
Knowing all of your classroom placement options can help you determine goals for your child, like moving from a self-contained classroom to a general education classroom with supports.
- Least Restrictive Environment: When it comes to classroom placement, you will hear the term least restrictive environment (LRE) over and over again. LRE is a part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It mandates that children spend as much time as possible learning alongside their typical peers.
Your child’s IEP team should make every effort to place your child in a classroom set up that provides them with the appropriate supports in the least restrictive way possible.
Say your child isn’t currently able to learn independently in a general education classroom. The IEP team should select the least restrictive intervention to address this problem. That means, if appropriate, education in the general education classroom with a paraeducator (for example, a teacher’s aide) should be considered before education in a self-contained classroom.
Establishing a Therapy Schedule
As your child transitions out of EI, you’ll also need to think about what therapies your child will need.
The school’s evaluations will determine which therapies your child qualifies for within the school system. You will be in charge of determining which therapies your child receives outside of school.
You may want your child to receive the same therapies outside of school that they receive in school, but not always. You’ll need to find the right balance for your unique situation.
When determining whether additional outside therapy is appropriate for your child, consider the following:
- Are your child’s needs being adequately addressed within the school?
- Can outside therapy provide opportunities that school therapy can’t?
- Will insurance cover outside therapy?
- Will your child be overscheduled and stressed with the addition of outside therapy?
After Early Intervention, the role of case manager falls to you, the parent. Trust your gut and remain flexible. What works for your child this month may not work next month. Be willing to adapt your plan to meet your child’s changing needs.
2 Tips From Our Transition Experience
There’s no doubt about it, transitioning from EI to preschool is a multi-layered and overwhelming process. Here are two things that surprised me when Sophie entered preschool:
- She had to ride the bus alone: By far the biggest surprise was that my little 3-year-old, who had never ridden in anything less than a five-point harness car seat, would be riding the bus alone without an aide.
While this was a very scary idea for me, it turned out just fine. The bus company provides young riders with a vest that zippers in the back and hooks onto the bus seat. This harness is very secure and it’s extremely challenging for a child to unhook themselves.
- You can add dietary restrictions to your IEP: If your child follows any sort of restricted diet, whether it’s a medical necessity or a parental choice, you can have the restriction listed in their IEP.
Since the IEP is a legal document your child’s whole team (teacher, paraeducator, therapists, etc.) will know about the restriction.
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to transitioning from EI to preschool. Take some time to consider what’s important to you and don’t be afraid to reach out to the school with those concerns.
You know your child best. In time, their therapists and teachers will get to know them too, but your knowledge as a parent is important and not to be dismissed. Don’t hesitate to advocate for what you believe is right.
Use this information to empower yourself so you can confidently manage your child’s transition from EI to preschool.Tell Me More!
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