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IDEA: Birth-to-Six Program

What IDEA Says

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) allows states to combine their Part C early intervention and Part B, Section 619 pre-school grants to offer a unified birth--to--six program to better serve families of children with special needs and to use Part B and Part C monies to do so. Simply stated, IDEA allows states to extend their current Part C birth--to--three program through age six using both Part C and Part B Section 619 funding but without the guarantees and protections of Part B. States must develop and implement this program jointly through a lead agency and the state educational agency.

Parents of children who reach age 3, who have been receiving services through a Part C program, and who want their child to continue receiving these services, will have to waive their child's right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Essentially, parents who choose to keep their child in a birth-to-six program may have to pay any fees applicable under Part C as well as fees for any services not covered under Part C. As an alternative, parents may give up their rights to specific services. In addition, children who remain in the Part C program and continue their individualized family service plan (IFSP) must have an educational component promoting school readiness and incorporating preliteracy, language, and numeracy skills as part of their plan.

Each state that opts to offer this program must provide an annual notice to parents of children with disabilities that include:

  • A description of the rights parents have under this program; and
  • An explanation of the differences in services provided under this unified birth-to-six program and services provided under a separate Part B pre-school program, including:
    • The types of services and locations at which the services are provided;
    • Applicable procedural safeguards; and
    • Any costs or fees for the parents.

In addition, states that opt to offer a birth-to-six program must report to the Secretary of Education the number and percentage of eligible children whose parents opt to keep them in the traditional Part C early intervention program.

Implications for ASHA Members

Some members have reported that states have early intervention service delivery models that allow underqualified individuals to provide direct and/or coordinated speech and language services to infants and toddlers. Under IDEA, states that elect to offer a birth-to-six program may extend this model to age six. This could have adverse effects on the children who need speech and language services if they are being provided by underqualified individuals. However, it may be a great opportunity for speech-language pathologists to be involved in preliteracy and language skills for children birth-to-six and to work closely with teachers and caregivers to emphasize the importance of language development for later academic success in school. 

Reference: For funding: P.L.108-446, Title I, Part B, Section 611, subparagraphs (e)(1)(A) and (e)(7); and for program administration: Part B, Section 619, subparagraphs (e)(2) and (f)(5), and Part C, Section 635, paragraph (c)

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