Step 1: Referral to the Preschool Special Education Program

If your child received early intervention services as an infant or toddler up to age three, and may still need special education, your service coordinator will assist you with transition planning and making a referral to the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE).

If your preschool-age child (3-5 years old) did not receive early intervention services, but has some delays or lags in development such as difficulty in talking, moving around, thinking, or learning or is facing physical or behavioral challenges — you, or professionals who know your child, may make a referral to the chairperson of your school district's Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) who will assist you in completing the referral process.

Where do I send the referral letter? 

The CPSE is part of the Committee on Special Education (CSE). There are 10 CSE offices, and each one covers a different area of the city. You should address the referral letter to the chairperson of the CSE office that covers the area where you live. To find out which CSE office covers your address, you can either: 

  • Call 311; or
  • Visit the DOE ’s School Search website at Enter your child’s home address at the top and click “Search.” The website will give you the zoned school for your address. Look below the name of the school to see which school district the school is located in; that is your district. Each CSE office covers several school districts.

What should I write in the referral letter? 

You should state that you are concerned about your child’s development and are requesting a preschool special education evaluation. You should describe any specific areas of concern, and you should state any services your child has received in the past. You should provide your full contact information, including an address and telephone number where the CPSE can reach you. If you speak a language other than English, you should state your preferred language. 

If your child is currently receiving Early Intervention (EI) services, you can ask your EI service coordinator to help you write this letter. You should state in the letter that your child is receiving EI services.

What support is available to address behavioral challenges?

A variety of special education services are available to help preschool children whose behavior interferes with their learning. For example, your child may be disrupting class, refusing to participate in activities, or acting in a way that poses a risk of harm to himself/herself or others. These behaviors may be due to a disability or to delays in social/emotional development. In many cases, children can receive behavioral supports on their IEP that allow them to participate in a general education preschool program. 

When a child’s behavior interferes with learning, the evaluation agency should conduct a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) to identify what types of behaviors the child is exhibiting, when the child exhibits those behaviors, and what triggers those behaviors. If you have concerns about your child’s behavior, you should mention it in your referral letter to the CPSE, and, when you meet with the evaluation agency, you should ask the agency to conduct an FBA. The IEP team can then use the FBA to create a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP). The BIP describes the strategies that will be used to help the child change his or her behavior. 

Information partly from Advocates for Children of New York

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