By Emily Wolski, MS, CCC-SLP

As an Early Interventionist in Washington DC, I’ve seen the process families experience to transition from their early intervention services to Pre-K 3 many times.  For the caregivers, however, this process can be new, intimidating, and convoluted at times.   If a family is actively in their state’s early intervention program, your service coordinator can be a great resource and guide through this process.  Nevertheless, here is the breakdown to help anyone going through this process! 

Part C vs. Part B

To start, let’s cover some background information: Part C and Part B services.  What are these things? These terms refer to different sections of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA (1975) which is now part of US law.  Part B of this act mandates special education services for children ages 3-21 years in the public school setting. A child in this age range who qualifies for Part B services when they enter school will receive a care plan called an IEP (Individualized Education Plan).  Years later in 1986, another section was added on: Part C. Part C mandates early intervention services for children birth through 3 years of age.  The family and main caregivers play a crucial role in the development of the care plan or IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan).  The programs vary slightly from state to state but IDEA provides guidelines on what each program should include such as specific timelines to meet, information to include in documents, etc.   That’s the gist!

Part C and Part B services differ in how a child qualifies.  In early intervention, children qualify based on a percent delay (determined by a standardized evaluation) or a medical diagnosis that puts the child at risk for falling behind their peers. Diagnoses could include Autism Spectrum Disorders, Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Hearing Loss, and many more.  This means some children “auto-qualify” and do not need to complete standardized evaluation to be found eligible for their early intervention program. 

For Part B, however, schools do not have any auto-qualifying criteria to receive services.  ALL children will need to undergo standardized testing to determine eligibility.   The school team is trying to determine if any delays a child may have will affect their ability to access their curriculum at school or interact with their teachers and peers.  This is where the “transition” comes in, hence the title “Part C to Part B”.  

Beginning the Transition 

As previously mentioned, if your child is already enrolled in early intervention services, your assigned service coordinator will facilitate this transition.  This includes talking to the family prior to it happening to give an overview of the steps and then connecting the family to a representative from Part B.   Since I work in DC, I’m most familiar with its specific agencies.  Strong Start is DC’s early intervention program.  During this transition, your service coordinator will connect you with Early Stages, which is DC’s evaluation team that assesses your child and determines if they are falling behind in any area of development: cognition, language, gross motor, fine motor, adaptive, and social.  They are DC Public School’s evaluation team for any child of the ages 2 years 8 months through 5 years 10 months.   Here is what the evaluation process looks like if your child is already enrolled in Strong Start services:

1. Treating therapist completes 6-month assessment to update progress on developmental milestones

2. A Strong Start Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MDE) will schedule a standardized evaluation in your home or virtually

3. You will have a transition meeting with your service coordinator, the MDE team to review scores, and an Early Stages representative to review the remainder of the process

4. Early Stages will get access to that MDE report to determine what other standardized evaluations to complete

5. You bring your child into the Early Stages office for an observation and to complete anymore standardized evaluations.  For example, if your main concern is speech and language, Early Stages may complete a more comprehensive speech and language only evaluation.

6. You meet with Early Stages and your service coordinator to review your child’s skills and determine eligibility 

7. If found eligible for Part B services, an IEP will be created by the Early Stages team for what your child should work on in school with providers and you meet to discuss

The important item to remember is that Part C and Part B are two different programs with two different eligibility requirements.  Just because your child is eligible for Part C services does not mean they will be eligible for Part B.   Personally, this happens to the children I see quite regularly because they are doing well by the time they turn 3 years old!  My specialty is working with Deaf and Hard of Hearing children. For Part C services, they are auto-eligible for early intervention services based on their hearing loss diagnosis. Some clients of mine have appropriate language, cognition, adaptive, social and motor skills by the time they undergo this transition. They don’t need speech therapy, occupational therapy, or other special education services at school because they are at an age appropriate level.  For these children, even though they may not need special education services, they still could need accommodations.  If that is the case, a child could qualify for a 504 plan (another section of IDEA) that lists the type of accommodations or modifications that child needs in the classroom.  

Not enrolled in an early intervention program?

For school-age children who are not actively enrolled in Part C services and do not have a service coordinator, the family must self-refer.  In DC, a parent can refer right on the Early Stages website as long as that child falls within the age range they work with.   If the child is older, you can talk directly to your child’s school/teacher to inquire about next steps, but here is some information from DCPS, specifically.

Private, Charter, or Religious school options

So far, we have talked about the transition process from the perspective of a child going straight into a public school.  But what if your child isn’t going to a public school? Maybe they will go to a public charter school? Private or religious school?  What can you do?  For Part C children going to Part B, an evaluation will always be offered to you to determine if special education services are warranted in the public school system.  The choice is up to the family, however. They do not have to accept those services offered in a public school and can choose a private, religious, or charter school.  From the therapist’s perspective, it’s nice to have a most recent evaluation and a drafted IEP to give to your child’s school, even if it’s not public. This can give the school a template to work off of when developing goals to target if that school offers any special education services.  It may just simply give your other school placement additional information of your child’s needs.  

While this is not guaranteed in all states, DC does offer services to students in private and religious schools in a program called Equitable Services.  It would not guarantee exact services that an IEP offers but may offer some alternatives.  For more information, go to this website

In all this transition, remember to do what feels best for your child and family!  Only you can determine which school you would like to send your child.  If you don’t have any concerns now but do in the future, you can always talk to your child’s school for more information or look up next steps online. It is important to know your options, that you can obtain free evaluations for your child for the educational system, and there are programs in place to help your child soar and be successful as they grow!

Additional Information 

For information about other local Part C and Part B services, check out the links below:

Here are other helpful links:

*Important links are also embedded in the text. Click on the key word to navigate to that link.