Skip Navigation

National Center for Special Education Research


Preschoolers with Disabilities: Characteristics, Services, and Results:

NCSER 2006-3003
May 2008

Characteristics of Educational Services and Providers

  • On average, preschoolers with disabilities were nearly 3 years old when they started receiving special education or therapy services from a professional. Children identified as having an orthopedic impairment, mental retardation, or an other health impairment typically began receiving services at significantly younger ages than children identified as having other disabilities.
  • The vast majority of children with disabilities ages 3–5 who received special education services received speech or language therapy (93%). Other common services included special education in school (42%), occupational therapy (34%), physical therapy (21%), and tutoring for learning problems (19%). There were some significant variations across racial/ethnic groups, household income groups, and disability categories.
  • To support social interactions between children with and without disabilities, 89 percent of children's teachers reported that they provided structured play and task situations that required such interactions. More than three-quarters (77%) of the teachers reported that they prompted and reinforced children with disabilities to initiate and maintain interactions with children without disabilities, and 76 percent of the teachers said they prompted and reinforced children without disabilities to initiate and maintain interactions with children with disabilities. A majority of parents (86%) thought their children spent the right amount of time with typically developing children.
  • More than half (55%) of children with disabilities ages 3–5 had a teacher with a graduate degree; 38 percent had a teacher with a bachelor's degree. When teachers were asked to report up to four areas of licensure, the most common were special education (36%), early childhood special education (31%), and elementary/secondary education (31%). There were some significant differences across racial/ethnic groups, household income groups, and disability categories.