Preschool Special Education

Preschool Special Education Services

Maryland’s system of Preschool Special Education Services provides specialized instruction and related services, such as speech-language therapy, physical and occupational therapy, to young children, ages three through five, determined eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and in accordance with State regulations for special education. Through 24 local school systems, the Maryland School for the Blind and the Maryland School for the Deaf, Maryland’s system of preschool special education services ensures the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to all eligible children at no cost to their families, and in the least restrictive environment (LRE). 


Children ages 3 through 5 who have a disability as defined by one of the categories listed below are eligible for preschool special education services provided through the local school system. In some local school systems preschool children may also be eligible if they meet the criteria for Developmental Delay. In Maryland, the categories of disability include: 
  • Autism
  • Deafness
  • Deaf-Blindness
  • Developmental Delay (ages 3 to 7)
  • Emotional Disability
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Multiple Disabilities
  • Orthopedic Impairment
  • Other Health Impairment
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Speech or Language Impairment
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Visual Impairment, including blindness

The first step in determining eligibility for preschool special education and related services is a referral made to the local school system Child Find office. Once a referral is made, parental consent is needed before any assessments are conducted. Following completion of assessments in all areas of suspected disability, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team is convened. Parents are essential members of the IEP team and should be included as active partners in all stages of the eligibility determination process. During the IEP team meeting, the results of assessments are reviewed as part of a comprehensive evaluation process, where the child’s strengths, as well as challenges, are discussed, and eligibility under one of the established disability categories is determined. For more information about Maryland Preschool Services, contact the local school system Child Find office, or the Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Early Intervention and Special Education Services, Preschool Services Section at 1-800-535-0182.

Family Guide to Preschool Special Education Services

The Family Guide to Preschool Special Education Services in Maryland provides families with an overview of the steps in Maryland’s IEP team process for preschool children, from referral through eligibility determination to IEP development and implementation. The guide includes information about a family’s rights under the IDEA, as well as a summary of key pieces of information that can help to support a family’s engagement as active partners in all aspects of the child’s educational experience.

Directory of Local Preschool Special Education Coordinators 

Contact Information

Maryland State Department of Education
Division of Early Intervention and Special Education Services
200 W. Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410-767-0238
Fax: 410-333-8165