There are two distinctly different programs for serving children with a disability who are not yet in kindergarten or transitional kindergarten (T-K).
EARLY START: The Early Start program is for children 0-36 months with a developmental delay or at risk for a developmental delay. The first call for a referral goes to the Department of Developmental Disabilities Regional Center where the child lives. The Regional Centers provide Early Start services to the majoirty of eligible children. The school districts are responsible for Early Start services to children with solely vision, hearing or orthopedic disabilities and collaborate to provide services to a small number of other children. Early Start is a family-focused program with professionals and others gathering to assist the family in their journey to support their child. The program is called an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). The schools collaborate closely with the Regional Centers to transition Early Start-eligible children into Special Education preschool programs at age three.
SPECIAL EDUCATION PRESCHOOL: The Special Education preschool program is for children over three years of age, not yet in T-K or kindergarten. The student must have a Special Education eligible disability, and services are focused on access to education, via an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Services may range from a preschool class to related services only such as Speech and Language or Occupational Therapy. The first call for a referral of a child over three (not served in Early Start) is to the school district in which the child lives.
SEE THE TABS AT LEFT FOR A DESCRIPTION OF BOTH PROGRAMS