Transition of Children from Birth-3 Programs
to Early Childhood Programs

Under the new IDEA, IEP teams must consider individualized family services plans for children with disabilities who are ages 3 through 5. The IFSP may serve as a child’s IEP if it meets the content requirements of Part C and is developed in accordance with IEP procedural requirements. Also, use of the IFSP as an IEP must be consistent with state policy and agreed upon by the school district and the child’s parents.

School Districts should begin discussions with parents early, before age 3. A child’s transition may be a difficult time for family members. They may need numerous opportunities to discuss the impending changes, understand the differences in the nature of the programs under Part B and Part C of IDEA, and adjust to new professionals and services. They will also need assistance in carrying out the steps of the transition process.

Districts should discuss transition-related subjects with parents of children who are eligible for special education at age three. The discussions should include:

  • Parents’ rights and due process.
  • The assessment process.
  • Eligibility for preschool services under Part B of IDEA.
  • Eligibility for general education preschool services.
  • Differences between services provided under an IFSP and those provided under an IEP.
  • Differences between services under Part B and those under Part C of IDEA.
  • Future service options available to the child at age three such as special day classes, participation in a program with a resource specialist or an inclusion specialist, designated instruction, or any combination of these.
  • Future settings for services.
  • Eligibility requirements including general education programs such as Head Start, state preschools, children’s centers, community preschools and child care programs.

District staff should get prepared to adjust a child to a new setting and change service deliver. This preparation may require staff to:

  • Concentrate on the child’s acquisition and development of specific skills, such as following simple directions.
  • Make program or classroom visits.
  • Set up follow-up visits for early intervention staff.
  • Have telephone consultations with preschool program staff.


  • 34 CFR 303.340-346 of the current Part C regulations contain provisions regarding IFSPs.


The IFSP may serve as the IEP of the child, if using the IFSP as the IEP is:

(i) Consistent with State policy; and

(ii) Agreed to by the agency and the child’s parents. 34 CFR 300.323 (b)(1).

In implementing the requirements of paragraph (b)(1) of this section, the public agency must:

(i) Provide to the child’s parents a detailed explanation of the differences between an IFSP and an IEP; and

(ii) If the parents choose an IFSP, obtain written informed consent from the parents. 34 CFR 300.323 (b)(2).

The New Illinois Regulations (23 Ill.Admin.Code) state:

226.250 Child Aged Three Through Five

“In the case of an eligible child three through five years of age, an IFSP that contains the material described in 34 CFR 300.323(b) may serve as a child’s IEP if using that plan is agreed to by the local school district and the child’s parents. If a district proposes to use an IFSP, the local school district shall:

a) Provide a detailed explanation of the differences between an IFSP and an IEP to the child’s parents;

b) Obtain informed, written consent from the parents for the use of the IFSP; and

c) Ensure that the IFSP is developed in accordance with the IEP requirements found in Subpart C of this Part.

226.260 Child Reaching Age Three

a) Child with an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)

For each child who will be making the transition from an early intervention program into the special education program of a school district at age three, the district shall ensure that either an IEP or the child’s IFSP is in effect on his or her third birthday. A representative of the school district shall participate in the transition meeting scheduled by the early intervention team.

b) Child Without an IFSP

1) For each child who is referred to a school district at least 60 school days prior to his or her third birthday and determined eligible, the district shall ensure that either an IEP or an IFSP is in effect on his or her third birthday.

2) For each child who is referred with fewer than 60 school days remaining before his or her third birthday, or after that date, the district shall comply with the requirements of Section 226.110(c)-(j) of this Part. (which means the District has 60 school days)

c) If a child’s third birthday occurs during the summer, the IEP Team for that child shall determine when the district’s services to the child will begin.


  • The IFSP must comply with the content requirements of 20 USC 1436 (d) in Part C of the act. The IFSP must be in writing and contain:

(1) A statement of the infant’s or toddler’s present levels of physical development, cognitive development, communication development, social or emotional development, and adaptive development, based on objective criteria;

(2) a statement of the family’s resources, priorities, and concerns relating to enhancing the development of the family’s infant or toddler with a disability;

(3) a statement of the measurable results or outcomes expected to be achieved for the infant or toddler and the family, including pre-literacy and language skills, as developmentally appropriate for the child, and the criteria, procedures, and timelines used to determine the degree to which progress toward achieving the results or outcomes is being made and whether modifications or revisions of the results or outcomes or services are necessary;

(4) a statement of specific early intervention services based on peer-reviewed research, to the extent practicable, necessary to meet the unique needs of the infant or toddler and the family, including the frequency, intensity, and method of delivering services;

(5) a statement of the natural environments in which early intervention services will appropriately be provided, including a justification of the extent, if any, to which the services will not be provided in a natural environment;

(6) the projected dates for initiation of services and the anticipated length, duration, and frequency of the services;

(7) the identification of the service coordinator from the profession most immediately relevant to the infant’s or toddler’s or family’s needs (or who is otherwise qualified to carry out all applicable responsibilities under this part) who will be responsible for the implementation of the plan and coordination with other agencies and persons, including transition services; and

(8) the steps to be taken to support the transition of the toddler with a disability to preschool or other appropriate services.


  • In the case of a child with a disability ages 3 through 5, the IEP team must “consider” the child’s IFSP.
  • The IFSP may serve as IEP for a child with a disability aged 3 through if it meets the content requirements of Part C (IDEA 2004 at 20 USC 1436 ) and is developed in accordance with IEP procedural requirements. Additionally, use of the IFSP as an IEP must be consistent with state policy and agreed upon by the school district and the child’s parents. 20 USC 1414 (d)(2)(B).
  • According to IDEA 2004 report language from the joint House/Senate conference committee: “The Conferees recognize that ensuring that a smooth transition from the Part C system to the Preschool Program or to school is vital for a child’s educational success. It is the Conferees’ intent that during the initial IEP meeting for a child transferring from the Part C program the types of services the child received as part of the IFSP are discussed. The Conferees understand that services provided through the Part B program may differ in frequency, duration, and environment, however, the IEP Team should explain the changes in services in the initial IEP meeting. The Conferees do not intend that a State or district reduce any service a child would be otherwise eligible for under Part B.”
  • If an IFSP was incorrectly developed by the early intervention agency and the public agency and the parent agree to use the IFSP in lieu of an IEP, the LEA is responsible for modifying the IFSP so that it meets the requirements in 34 CFR 300.323 (b). Analysis of Comments and Changes to 2006 IDEA Part B Regulations, 71 Fed. Reg. 46679 (August 14, 2006).