Examining Where Services to Children with Disabilities are Provided

The language and terms used to describe district preschool programming can often be confusing. It is not uncommon to hear terms such as “integrated preschool” or “inclusive preschool” to describe a district’s preschool program. When a district says, “We have an integrated preschool”, what does that actually mean? These terms are not used or defined in the IDEA or NH Standards for the Education of Children with Disabilities. It is important that a common understanding of the educational settings and programs being providing our preschool population is developed.  The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the US DOE defines three different types of educational settings/environments for children aged 3-5 which align with the NH Standards for the Education of Children with Disabilities:

Regular Early Childhood Setting

NHSEIS 3-5 Early Childhood Program

In the school aged context, the Early Childhood environment/setting would be equivalent to the Regular Education Environment (aka the regular first grade classroom). An early childhood setting is defined as having at least 50% of children without IEPs.  In other words, at least half of the “class” will always be children who are not identified for special education.  Programs associated with this setting include but are not limited to programs in these categories:

  • Head Start
  • Preschool classes offered by the public school system
  • Private preschools (Community Preschool Programs)
  • Family Child Care or other Child Care Center

Special Education Setting

NHSEIS as 3-5 Year Old Special Education Classrooms, 3-5 Separate School, and 3-5 Residential Facility

In school aged context, this would be similar to self -contained programs or specially designed classrooms.  A special education classroom is defined as having less than 50% of the children without IEPs. In other words, the majority of the children in the classroom are children with disabilities. It is operated by the local school district and can include, but is not limited to special education classrooms in regular school buildings, trailers or portables outside the regular school building.

    • Separate schools-  A separate school is defined as a publicly or privately operated separate day school facility designed specifically for children with disabilities.   
    • Residential programs- A residential facility is a publicly or privately operated residential school or residential medical facility on an inpatient basis.


NHSEIS 3-5 Year Old Homebased/Child’s Home or 3-5 Year Old Service Provider Location

Home – A preschooler with special needs may receive some or all special education and related services in the child’s home.  Home is defined as the principal residence of the child’s family or caregivers.  The term caregivers includes babysitters.

Service Provider Location – Service provider location is defined as receiving special education and/or related services such as speech therapy in a:

  • Therapist or clinician’s office in a public school
  • Private therapist or clinician’s office
  • Hospitals facilities in an outpatient basis

Unlike with school-aged children, Service Provider Location is an appropriate setting in NHSEIS for preschool aged children.    A child may require speech therapy, but not a preschool program.  In this case, services may be provided by a speech pathologist individually or in a small group at a site such as a speech room in a local elementary school, or in a district preschool classroom after hours.

Want to know more?

 Click to view
Click to viewUnderstanding Preschool Special Education Settings, Program Placement and Data Reporting Requirements
The RACE 2K project has created an on-line module to provide Special Education Administrators, Preschool Special Education Coordinators and staff an overview of the new reporting requirements related to Preschool Special Education Settings, how to enter data in NHSEIS and information about Preschool Least Restrictive Environment
Click to download
Click to downloadProgram Self-Assessment
As part of the Supporting Children with Disabilities: A Guide to Understanding Early Childhood Special Education Systems, we have created a Program Self-Assessment as part of the Guide section titled Examining Where Services are Provided to Preschool Children with Disabilities. This tool helps to provide a snap shot of a district’s program.
Technical Assistance
Technical AssistanceFrom Race 2K Staff
The Race2K Project staff are available to assist school districts in both assessing current preschool program models and capacity and in implementing strategies to expand their program to provide access to early childhood classrooms/programs.