Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE)

The San Diego Unified School district refers to special education and related services for preschool age as Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE). ECSE is a state and federally mandated program for preschool children who meet state eligibility criteria because they are experiencing developmental delays. Eligibility for children is determined by criteria that have been established by federal and state rules and regulations, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

School districts and other public agencies are responsible for locating, identifying and evaluating eligible children and offering a free & appropriate public education. It is important to remember that special education is not a place but a system of services and supports for children with disabilities who require specially designed instruction to gain educational benefit. These services are provided through federal funding under the IDEA and state general revenue funds.

It is the goal of the SDUSD ECSE Department to support our parents and students by providing an appropriate program for each child to make it possible for our students to achieve their highest potential. Below is a brief description of the ECSE Department's responsibilities, and answers to questions commonly asked by parents.

The San Diego Unified School District ECSE program supports children who live within our district boundaries as follows:

  1. ECSE Infant Program: SDUSD serves a limited number of infants (birth to 35 months) through interagency collaboration with California Early Start. Children are evaluated for services based on suspected disability. In Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) is developed for children who meet eligibility criteria. To request an assessment for a child aged birth to 2 years 10 months, please call the SEEC Infant Program at 858-272-9641, ext. 133.
  2. ECSE Assessment/Individual Education Program (IEP): Students who are aged 2 years 11 months to 5 years are assessed in all areas of suspected disability. Based on the assessment, appropriate goals, accommodations, services and education setting are determined and an Individual Education Program (IEP) is developed for students who meet eligibility criteria. Parents are referred to the SEEC Department for assessment by physicians, hospitals, preschool teachers, and by their own concerns for their children. Family members may call for information, but the actual request for assessment must come from the child's parent or legal guardian. Students are who kindergarten age are assessed at their school of residence.
  3. ECSE Preschool Program: The ECSE Department provides a continuum of services for eligible students. Students are assigned in the appropriate special education preschool settings based on the IEP. Once the child is assigned to a school, the parents are required go to the school and complete the school's registration requirements before their child can start attending. Once a child is enrolled in a ECSE preschool, the classroom teacher becomes the student's case manager. Any changes in services, transportation, etc., need to be requested through the case manager. The case manager also coordinates the transition to kindergarten.

Commonly asked questions:

How do I request an assessment for my child? What is the procedure?

a. Call 858-490-8500 to request an assessment. Your address and child's age qualifications will be confirmed, and you will be referred to our Intake Clerk.

b. The Intake Clerk will gather basic information about your child and your specific concerns to complete an Intake Form. The Intake Form is then forwarded to professional Special Education Staff who review the information and determine appropriate follow-up.

c. If a child is to be assessed, parents will receive a packet via United States Mail within two weeks. Parents/guardians need to sign the requested documents and mail them back to the ECSE Department. One parent's signature is all that is required for assessment. The child will be assessed within 60 days of the ECSE Department receiving the signed forms, and parents will receive a letter informing them of the assessment date, time, and location.

d. The ECSE Department has several Assessment Teams in the district responsible for assessing/diagnosing preschool-aged children. The Assessment Team is normally comprised of a School Psychologist, a Nurse, a Speech/Language Pathologist, and an Occupational Therapist. Parents need to be present during the assessment.

e. A meeting is scheduled after the assessment so that the Assessment Team can share their assessment result with the parents. If it is determined that the child requires special education services, an Individual Education Program (IEP) will be developed. The IEP identifies the appropriate goals, services and educational setting to support the child. The IEP is a legal document, and should be honored by other school districts.

What if my child has an IEP from another school district?

Please fax your name, address, telephone number, and a copy of your child's current IEP to 858-490-8548 so that the ECSE Department can consider your child's services.

What happens when my child becomes eligible to enter kindergarten?

Students transition from the ECSE program when they enter kindergarten. Parents can register their students at their neighborhood school or request enrollment at the school of their choice via the Enrollment Options Program. The students' IEPs follow them, and appropriate services are provided by the elementary school.

The Special Education Department hopes that the above information answers the initial questions that parents may have about ECSE's services and procedures. Parents are welcome to call the ECSE department for any further information and assistance.

ECSE Program Contacts

Tina Shirley, Program Manager 858-490-8500
Ana Brady, Administrative Assistant 858-490-8500
Kim McGee, Clerk Typist III 858-490-8500
Manuela Valdez, Parent Facilitator 858-490-8500
Fax 858-490-8549