Children with Disabilities

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Ages 2 - 5, Early Childhood Special Education

In Virginia,  a child aged 2-5 with a disability and a documented need may be eligible for Early Childhood Special Education. It is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that outlines regulations and requirements for Early Childhood Special Education.  Services are provided across all localities in the state by school divisions.  For contact information of a local school division, visit the Virginia public school division directory .

Special Education Process

Preschool-aged children from age two (whose birthday falls on or before September 30) through five with a disability may be eligible for Early Childhood Special Education services under one or more of 13 disability categories, which are defined in the federal and state regulations:

  • Autism                                                                                 vision-impaired
  • Deaf-blind
  • Emotional disability
  • Hearing impairment
  • Learning disability
  • Intellectual disability
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Other health impairment
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Visual impairment/blindness
  • Developmental Delay

The determination of eligibility for special education and related services shall be made on an individual basis by a team of individuals, including the child's parents. To receive special education, the child it to is to be a child with a disability and present an educational need. For more information on the eligibility process view the Virginia Department of Education’s Video Guide to the Special Education Evaluation Process for Families.


Birth - Age 2, Early Intervention

Early Intervention services are available for children from birth to age 3 with a delay or a disability. Early Intervention helps children learn basic skills that typically develop during the first years of life and helps parents learn how to incorporate ways to teach their children these skills in every day activities.

Transitioning from Early Intervention to Early Childhood

Some children who receive Early Intervention will transition to Early Childhood Special Education. Ensuring a smooth and timely transition is critical.


 three children smiling

Inclusion in Early Childhood

Inclusion is the practice of educating and caring for children with disabilities in the same setting as their typically developing peers. In an inclusive program, children with and without disabilities learn and participate in the same daily activities and routines.


Data Collection and Reporting

In Early Childhood Special Education, there are three performance indicators required by the VDOE Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). This section of the website provides resources to improve the collection, reporting and use of ECSE indicator data.