Identifying the Right Special Education Provider For Your Child

The early intervention plan for children with special needs and disabilities was originally developed as a component of the Individual Education Plan (IEP) for children with special needs. Currently, the IEP/ Early Intervention/Special Education transition has been updated for new developments in the care of children with special needs and disabilities. The purpose of this statement is to define the process by which children with special needs and/or disabilities are transitioned from the early intervention programs of local public or charter school to the preschool or first grade classes of local school districts. This article describes the process by which children with special needs and/or disabilities are identified and referred to appropriate local programs or centers for services. It also describes the transition of these children from early intervention programs to preschool and first grade settings.

Local Early Intervention Program

When parents opt for early intervention planning for their children, they usually select a local early intervention program as an option for their child. Parents often seek the help of an early intervention specialist such as a Special Education Specialist (SES) or a Special Education Teacher (SET), who can provide information on the preparation of a plan for their child, including selecting the right program, training staff members, engaging the community, participating in after-school programs, and maintaining consistent follow-up with families. However, many locales have specific programs in place for children with special needs, making finding a qualified Early Intervention/Special Education transition specialist difficult. Here is a brief discussion about how to find an early interventionist or Early Intervention/Special Education transition team:

Local Education

Look for a local education agency that offers a specialty preschool program for children with special needs or a preschool program for those with mild to moderate intellectual skills. Many states and communities have Early Intervention/Special Education Transition Teams. If your child has special needs, your local school district should be able to provide you with a list of providers. Referrals from other parents, school counselors, and school administrators are also great sources for locating well-qualified providers. 


Contact the American School Children’s Association (ASCA) and the National Network for Safe Academics (NSSAA). These associations can help you locate providers in your area by providing research and referral services. They also have websites where you can find qualified providers. As always, be sure to check credentials and reputation before hiring anyone. Once you’ve identified several providers, schedule face-to-face interviews with them.

To Contact your local school district’s special education and behavioral health department. Your local school district probably has a contact person in the office of an Early Intervention/Special Education transition and intervention specialist. Ask them for a referral form to send to a provider in your area. Once you receive the referral form, it’s important to gather all the information from the form – the provider’s name, address, contact person, description of the problem, etc.

Quality of Education and Services

Review the annual transition notice sample and make a list of questions you need to ask every provider you interview. You want to gather as much information as possible about the provider’s experience, quality of education and services, and licensing. As a rough guide, you may want to request the names of three or four providers you are particularly interested in working with. Use your list of questions to make a final selection.

The third birthday.

  • The date of your third birthday is a special time to celebrate the child’s growth and development and to celebrate the families’ involvement in these milestones.
  • Your special education team determines the timeline for you based on your child’s developmental and educational needs.

Continue Your Search

If you do not get a ‘yes’ answer to any of the questions above, you should continue your search. If you have narrowed down your list of providers, visit each one to find out more information. It is important to know how long they have been serving children eligible for early intervention before contacting them. As part of your assessment process, your team will also review the school districts of your child’s community to determine if he or she would be a good candidate for early intervention. Your child’s school district may be able to recommend a qualified provider, but it is helpful to know how far that provider is from your home. Once you have met face-to-face with potential providers, you can then discuss whether or not you are a good fit for their services.

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