One of the myriad ways that early learning and care is critical for a child’s success in school and in life is the access it provides to a network of teachers and family support staff who, through ongoing observations and screenings, can identify areas where a child may benefit from an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). An IEP is a written plan designed in collaboration with families, teachers and specialists that supports a child’s individual needs, and is required for every child who receives special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Recognizing a child’s individual needs earlier in life (before they enter Kindergarten) can connect children and families to key supports during this critical period of development, and can reduce the need for costly remedial action later in a student’s life. IDEA ensures that children with disabilities access a free, appropriate, public education in the least restrictive environment. The educational experience must be modified to each child’s individual needs though equal to that of their peers without a disability.

Thirty years ago, Part C of IDEA was established, and Part B Section 619 was mandated. IDEA Part B Section 619 refers to the scope of education services for children from ages three through five, and IDEA Part C refers to the scope of education services for children from birth through age two.  The law’s inclusion of children starting at birth highlights not only the impact of early intervention services, but also the importance of ensuring that all learning environments, starting with the earliest years, are inclusive of all children.

Earlier in September, over 300 early learning and care advocates from all 50 states and D.C. signed on to an advocacy letter for increased investment in early learning programs, which included early intervention programs under Part B and Part C of IDEA.

To follow more updates about IDEA’s early interventions and preschool special education services, use the hashtag #babyIDEAis30 and check out the Office of Special Education Programs’ campaign for showcasing the impact of IDEA Part B and Part C on the early learning and care field.