Helping Create Successful Transitions from Family-Centered Service Plans to Individualized Education Plans and Services

Emily Welle



Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) is available to provide services for children with disabilities and their families from birth until their seventh birthday. The experience of having a child in Early Intervention (birth to three years old) or ECSE (three to seven years old) may be brand new for parents. It can be a time of growth for the child and family but can also be stressful. For example, parents may need extra time to process that their child would be best supported by special education services, or they may be fearful of their child having a ‘special education label’ throughout their school years and what it might mean. Emotions such as shock, disbelief, fear, and anxiety are all common for parents to feel (Healey, 2022).

Special education services from birth to three (Part C) focus on the child with disabilities and their families, but once a child turns three the focus moves toward academics and school-related goals (Part B). This transition period from family-based services to school-based services may add to parents feeling overwhelmed or lost – just as they were getting comfortable with home-based services, things change for them and their child.

Providing parents with resources and other stories from other parents may be beneficial (PACER Center Inc, 2022). Therefore, this project reviewed the literature about ECSE collaboration and the transition from Part C to Part B services. Then, the researcher created a handbook for parents, entitled, Transition Handbook for Parents, highlighting resources that an ECSE teacher may find helpful to share with families. The handbook specifically discusses the similarities and differences between Part B and Part C of ECSE, provides a sample timeline and description of common events /meetings that might occur during these times, and provides resources to help parents and ECSE providers successfully navigate the transition process.

Over the past three years of being an Early Childhood Special Education teacher (ECSE) working with students three to six years old, along with completing a 120-hour practicum with students from birth to two years old, I have noticed this time of growth for children can be a stressful time for parents or caregivers. The experience of having a child in early intervention or special education services may be brand new for parents. At times, it may be a matter of pride as it may take time for parents to process that their child needs special education services, or they may be afraid of their child having a special education label throughout their school years.

Based on these experiences, it was important to review the literature about best practices in collaboration between ECSE providers and parents and help parents accept their feelings. Below is an overview of ECSE and the different transitions that parents go through during a child’s years in special education, up until the age of seven.

Early Childhood Special Education