Beginning in the 2023-2024 school year, Colorado will serve preschool students with educational disabilities within the Universal Preschool Colorado program. Children with specialized learning needs who qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) will have access to a preschool program aligned to their IEP. Local Special Education Administrative Units (AUs) are responsible for implementing special education and will work with your family to determine eligibility, discuss program options, and support preschool enrollment. Your AU is most often your school district or a Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES).
- About Special Education
Special education may be available for three- and four-year-old children who need extra support in school and meet state eligibility criteria. The program is administered through the public school system and overseen by the Colorado Department of Education.
- Eligible children are entitled to a free and appropriate public education, meaning access to a preschool program along with specially designed instruction. Universal Preschool Colorado and state and federal special education funds cover the costs of services indicated on each child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).
- Every school district, some through a local Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), provides special education services to young children. Each school year more than 8,000 children receive individualized special education services in preschool.
- Preschool children with a disability may be served in a variety of settings, including a public program administered by a school district. Services may also be provided in Head Start programs or in private or community-based programs when the IEP team determines such placement can provide the services the child is entitled to receive.
- Children in the Year Before they are Eligible for Kindergarten
Universal Preschool Colorado will fund preschool for children with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for the number of hours of school indicated on their IEP.
Families of children with an IEP may apply for Universal Preschool Colorado at upk.colorado.gov and select the program identified in their child’s IEP. The administrative unit will work with the family on the best location for the services required by the child’s IEP and discuss program options.
Some children who meet the eligibility criteria for special education have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) developed to start on or before their third birthday, and UPK services will be made available for the number of hours of preschool each week as identified in their IEP. Apply at upk.colorado.gov and select your local school district as the provider.
- Suspected Challenges in Learning and Development
Do you have concerns or questions about your child in any of the following areas:
- How your child's speech is developing
- How your child is learning
- How your child sees or hears
- How your child plays and interacts with other children
- How your child moves their hands and body for daily tasks
- How your child responds to difficult situations or transitions
- How your child behaves and handles their emotions
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, reach out to the Child Find contact within your local public school district. Referrals of children with a suspected delay in development can be made to the local Child Find team where the family and child live. The purpose of the Child Find process in preschool is to determine whether a child has a need for special education services.
Learn more about Child Find.
Visit the Colorado Department of Education website for more information about special education for preschool-aged children.
Below are links for Colorado Department of Education (CDE) resources on Universal Preschool Colorado, as well as FAQ updates that have been created in conjunction with CDE to address commonly asked questions from providers and stakeholders in the field.
Have more questions or need help with Universal Preschool Colorado? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org