About Early Childhood Special Education

  • child playing with puzzle SSD began its Early Childhood Special Education program more than 30 years ago to serve students with severe multiple disabilities. In 1991, the District began providing services to preschool students with low to moderate disabilities.

    Today, more than 1,300 children ages 3 to 5 years receive special education services through the SSD Early Childhood program.

    How is ECSE provided?

    SSD provides early childhood special education services to students at 14 of the 22 public school districts in St. Louis County. The remaining eight school districts – Clayton, Ferguson-Florissant, Hazelwood, Kirkwood, Mehlville, Pattonville, Rockwood and University City – provide their own ECSE services, which includes hiring their own staff and evaluating children for eligibility. Parents who live in one of these districts who have concerns about their preschool-aged child should contact the Parents as Teachers staff at that district.

    In districts in which SSD provides early childhood special education, preschool-aged children who might need special education services are referred to SSD by the child’s local school district, either through the Parents as Teachers program or First Steps, a federal early-intervention program for children from birth to age 3 years. In addition, parents can make a referral. After a child is referred to SSD, the child is evaluated by SSD diagnostic staff. If it is determined that the child qualifies for special education services, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is written. Learn more about the IEP process.

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