Preschool Students with Disabilites


Many are aware of some of the programs available to school-aged children with disabilities. School districts are held to a strict standard to provide a free appropriate education to each student with a disability, ensuring that he or she receives an education that is tailored to meet his or her individual needs. However, for children in preschool who present disabilities, many are unaware of the standard that school districts and preschool programs are held to.


School boards must adopt a written policy that establishes administrative practices and procedures to ensure that each child in preschool with a disability can participate in preschool programs that are approved by the commissioner of education (8 NYCRR § 200.2(b)(2)). For instance, school districts must identify, evaluate, refer, place and review the placement of preschool aged children (ages three and four) with disabilities. This requirement extends to children enrolled in Head Start programs (20 USC § 1400 et seq.; Educ. Law § 4410; 8 NYCRR §§ 200.2(a)(1), 200.16).


In addition, every school board is required to appoint and train qualified personnel to a committee on preschool special education (CPSE). This committee is deemed responsible for making recommendations on the identification, evaluation, and appropriate services for children with special needs (2o USC § 1413(a)(3); Educ. Law § 4410(3); 8 NYCRR §§ 200.2(b)(3), 200.3(a)(2), 200.16(b)). This committee is also responsible for ensuring the proper allocation of appropriate space within the district for special education programs that properly meet the needs of preschool students with disabilities (8 NYCRR § 200.2(c)(2)(v)).


Examples of some of the services that preschool children are entitled to are special education itinerant services, special classes in both half, and full-day preschool programs, and related services that are also available to school-age children with disabilities (Educ. Law § 4410(1)(j), (k); 8 NYCRR §§ 200.1(nn), 200.16(e)(3), (i)). Before recommending any program, the committee on preschool education is advised to consider the appropriateness of providing related, or special education itinerant services by itself, related services in coordination with special education itinerant services, and a half-day or full-day program. Special education services are required to be provided with the same least restrictive environment requirements that districts are held to when educating school-age children (Educ. Law § 4410(5)(b)(i); 8 NYCRR § 200.16(e)(3),(i).


Understanding the Difference between the CSE and CPSE


As their names suggest, the Committee on Special Education (CSE) generally addresses the needs of school-age children with disabilities, while the Committee on Preschool Special Education focuses on the needs of preschool children with disabilities. However, parental rights and district responsibilities governing the CSE also apply to the CPSE. In addition, the CSE and the CPSE consist of different members than the CSE.


The CPSE must include the following members:


  • The parent of the preschool-age child with a disability


  • A general education teacher (if the child is, or may be participating in the general education environment)


  • A special education teacher, or a special education provider of the child (where appropriate)


  • A representative of the school district who:

    1. Is qualified to provide or supervise special education

    2. Is knowledgeable about the general curriculum

    3. Is knowledgeable about the availability of preschool special education programs and services and other resources of the district and the municipality. In addition, this person is to serve as the chairperson of the committee


  • A parent of a child with a disability who resides either in the district, or a neighboring district and whose child is enrolled in a preschool or elementary-level program (if specifically requested in writing by the parent of the student, or by a member of the committee at least 72 hours prior to the meeting. The district is also required to provide written notice to the parent of their right to have an additional parent attend any meeting along with a statement from the state education department that explains the role of having an additional parent attend).


  • An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of the child’s evaluation results (this individual may also be one of the above district members or the school psychologist).


  • At the discretion of the parent or district, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel.


  • For a child who is in transition from early intervention programs and services (infant and toddler programs): The appropriate professional designated by the agency that has been charged with the responsibility for the preschool child.


  • An appropriate certified or licensed professional from the municipality where the child resides is also advised to attend; however, attendance of this appointee is not required for the CPSE to be complete (Educ. Law § 4410(3)(a); 8 NYCRR § 200.3(a)(2).


Though preschool age children are not receiving the same structure of education that school-age children are, school districts are still required to provide specialized and individualized services to preschool children with disabilities. The law goes so far to require districts to appoint committees for their preschool children with disabilities. These committees are deemed in charge of handling the individual needs of each child, with each committee member having a role in the decision, review, and placement process. To review the specific responsibilities for each CSE and CPSE, see Education sections 4402 and 4410; as well as part 200 of the commissioner’s regulations. 

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