The following is a statement from Marilyn Friend, President of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), and Kristie Pretti-Frontczak, President of CEC's Division for Early Childhood (DEC), on the 25th Anniversary of the IDEA Infants and Toddlers (Part C) and Preschool (Part B, Sec. 619) Programs for children with disabilities.
Twenty-five years ago, our nation dramatically changed the way it addressed the needs of young children with disabilities and their families. Through the 1986 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal government demonstrated its commitment to this vulnerable population by adopting policies that supported the initiation and implementation of services for children from birth through age five.
With growing research showing that young children with disabilities benefit in the long term from early intervention and preschool services, CEC, DEC, and parent groups had long advocated for more support for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. The result of those efforts were IDEA Part C and Part B, Sec. 619, which expanded and strengthened IDEA’s programs for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with disabilities, bringing a renewed focus to addressing their needs.
According to the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center:
- Early intervention services positively affect outcomes across developmental domains, including language/communication, cognitive development, and social/emotional development, in young children who have or are at risk for developmental delays.
- Children who received IDEA preschool services perform close to the average of their peers without disabilities on developmental assessments.
- Families benefit by being able to better meet their child’s special needs from an early age and throughout their lives.
- Benefits to society include reducing the economic burden through a decreased need for additional special education services.
Despite this significant research base, and the growing number of young children served by Part C and Part B, Sec. 619, federal funding for these programs (in terms of dollars per child) has decreased in the last two decades. In 1995, Part C dollars/child was $1,915 and by 2009 it dropped to $1,280; in 1992, Part B, Sec. 619, dollars/child was $803 and by 2009 it was only $527.
CEC and DEC were at the forefront of the special education and early intervention movements and remain steadfast in our goal to make certain that all children with disabilities have access to quality early childhood special education services. CEC and DEC are committed to ensuring that the best interests of young children with disabilities are addressed in federal policies that both support the needs of the field and provide adequate funding to lay the foundation for their future social and cognitive development.
To mark the success enjoyed by young children with disabilities over the last 25 years as a direct result of these critical federal programs, CEC has collected 25 stories—one for each year the programs have been in place—which can be found on the CEC Web site at www.cec.sped.org/idea25. These 25 examples represent just a fraction of the estimated millions of young children whose lives have been improved by the services and supports afforded by IDEA’s programs.
In addition, CEC and DEC have worked with the IDEA Infant and Toddler Coordinators Association (ITCA) to create a side-by-side comparison of the new Part C regulations released in early September. We hope that this side-by-side will help special educators and early interventionists in their monumental task of implementing the updated regulations and ensuring quality early intervention services for young children with disabilities and their families.