Transition from Early Intervention to Special Education – FAQs

Transition from Early Intervention to Special Education – FAQs

Prepared by the Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education, Public Health, and Early Education and Care, in cooperation with participants in the Early Childhood Transition Forums, March 2014, revised and updated November 2014

  1. May a school district decide at the Transition Planning Conference not to act on the referral of a child made by Early Intervention (EI)?

The school district cannot refuse a referral of a child made by an EI provider. EI providers are responsible for determining if a child is potentially eligible for Part B services. The school district must act on the referral and conduct an evaluation (including all areas of suspected disability) of the child in order to determine if the child is eligible for special education services.

  1. May a school district determine that there is not enough information to justify a referral, or conduct a “screening” prior to acting on the referral?

Districts must accept and act on referrals from EI providers; screening cannot be used to delay a referral received from EI. Under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the only basis under which districts may not act on a referral for an eligibility determination is if there is no suspected disability. Because the EI criteria for identifying a child as potentially eligible for special education is based on a suspected disability, it follows that there is no basis for a school district to refuse to act on a child’s referral from EI.

A student referred from EI must complete the evaluation process and a Team meeting must be held to determine eligibility. If the parent “Consent to Evaluate” form is received prior to the child’s third birthday, the school must complete the evaluation, and, if the child is determined eligible, develop and implement the IEP on or before the child’s third birthday.

  1. May EI evaluations be used by the school district as the basis for determining a child’s eligibility for special education?

Evaluations must be comprehensive and complete in all areas of suspected disability. The school district is encouraged to consider any and all evaluation information that is already available, and conduct additional assessments that are needed, as appropriate for the child under consideration.

  1. May a district require that a family submit to it proof of residency before pursuing a referral made by EI?

Districts may have enrollment policies that require certain proofs of residency. Such enrollment policies must be applied in a nondiscriminatory manner to all students, and must not be used as a basis for delaying access to services. State and federal laws require a school district to make a determination of a young child’s eligibility and to develop and implement an Individualized Education Program (IEP) by a child’s third birthday when a young child is referred before his/her third birthday.

We have heard anecdotally that some districts have a practice of not providing the “Consent to Evaluate” form or proceeding with the evaluations until all proofs of residency have been received and approved. Some families, particularly those for whom English is not their primary language or those who have informal/shared living arrangements have difficulty procuring necessary documents. The process for submitting documents can sometimes significantly delay the process.

EI programs and districts are encouraged to work together to ensure transitions for children and their families are as seamless as possible. How to do so within the framework of districts’ proof of residency policies may be addressed explicitly within the district/EI program’s local MOU (e.g., the specific documents needed, timelines and approval processes, communication plans).  EI programs should then work with parents far enough in advance to facilitate the approval process.

You will find information regarding families who are unable to or reluctant to provide residency information in the Advisory: Serving Homeless Preschool Children  http://www.doe.mass.edu/mv/haa/03_6.html