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A Parents’ Guide to Special Education: Early Childhood

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

Blog description: Understanding special education in preschool: guide for parents, basic overview of early childhood special education


If you teach in a WELS early childhood education center or preschool, bringing up early childhood special education with a parent can feel overwhelming. After all, this is a tough conversation to have, especially when you are working to build a deep connection with your families.

One of the best ways to talk about this new stage of life is to have all the information available. Use this article as a guide, and share it with your student’s parents. Christian Educators for Special Education exists to give you the tools to have these conversations. So, check out our full list of resources for more information.

What is the purpose of special education?

The purpose of special education is to fully include every child in the education process through individually designed instruction. This instruction, often outlined in the form of an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), takes into account the unique needs of the child. These instruction plans create a more comfortable, welcoming educational experience. Some IEPs include support for social and emotional development, as well as academic. All of these work to help the student reach their fullest potential.

Why is early childhood special education important?

But, why is special education important in early childhood education? Aren’t they too little for there to be a difference? Indeed, early childhood is one of the simplest places for special education to be intertwined into the daily activities. This is partially due to the importance of play for all children, not just children who have special needs. Even though play may not seem important to us adults, it’s extremely important in early childhood education.

Moreover, early intervention can set your child up for success much sooner in life than waiting until the elementary or even high school years. If your child is in preschool, interventions can begin early and improve health and wellness outcomes much earlier in their lives.

What qualifies a child for special education?

Qualifications for special education services are different according to state and public/private school. For instance, in Wisconsin, children between ages 3 and 21 (prior to age 3, therapies are provided through the Birth to 3 Program, which is administered under the Department of Health Services) with a qualifying disability can be eligible for services. In Minnesota, they become eligible at birth. Discuss options with your child’s teacher and/or the school’s principal to find out what is offered through your specific WELS school.

What role do parents play in special education?

Parents work with both teachers and medical specialists to determine if special education intervention is needed. Depending on your setting, you will be able to attend a few meetings to discuss a possible IEP. These meetings may feel very emotional, but remember that everyone there loves and values your child. These meetings are not meant to attack or make you feel guilty as a parent. Rather, they are there to build a firm relationship between the school and the home that will bolster your child’s God-given strengths.

Can a parent refuse special education services?

You might think, “I don’t want my child in special education.” Rest assured, you are completely in control of any situation that involves your child. You may choose not to begin services or withdraw your consent for services at any time. In fact, schools cannot evaluate special education services without your consent in the first place.

However, before making this call, make sure you have an informed understanding of the situation. Get second opinions, speak with your child’s primary physician, and check out the resources that follow.

What resources are available to parents of a child with special needs?

We recommend starting with your state’s website. Here is information for Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The International Journal of Early Childhood Special Education also has a wonderful collection of scholarly, peer-reviewed articles focused on special education from ages 0-8.

Finally, browse the available CESE resources.

Christian Educators for Special Education (CESE)

CESE’s mission is to make a Christian education possible for every child, especially those with special needs. We’ve followed this mission for the last 35 years in a variety of ways throughout the United States and internationally. Use our resources, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us today.


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