Joseph H. Huber, PhD

Are We Prepared for Infants, Toddlers, and Preschool Children?

In the fall of 1973, Congress established a national agenda to educate all handicapped children with the passage of the Education of the Handicapped Act (EHA)/Public Law 94-142. Even though the age provision of the law included children from 3 to 21, the requirement did not aply to children younger than five if the age level was inconsistent with the state law.

Writing and implementation of regulations is a natural evolutionary process. Congress intends regulations to be amended and revised as needs develop an experience dicates. Based upon testimony recongnizing the effectiveness and critiacl importance of early intervention programs and preschool education for handicapped children, Congress passed Public Law 99-457 in 1986 to amend EHA.

In support of Public Law 99-457, the Committee on Education and Labor reviewed numerous studeis and concluded that:

The 1986 amendments reaffirmed the provisions of EHA and included a rigorous national agenda to establish two new federal programs for preschool handicapped students by FY 1991. One new program, referred to as Part H, focuses exclusively on the provisions of services and intervnetion programs for handicapped infants and toddlers (birth to age thirty-six months) and their families. The second program, known as Section 619, assures the provision of special education and related services to all handicapped children ages three to five years.

Infants and Toddlers

Part H of PL99-457 establishes a discretionary program to assist states to plan, develop, and implement a comprehensive, coordinated, interdisciplinary program of early intervention services for handicapped infants and toddlers. The program is designed to build upon existing State systems of early intervention services while providing 14 othe components, such as:

An Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC) composed of 15 members will be appointed by the Governor of each state. The ICC will advise and assist the state agency to plan and operate a comprehensive system of services and programs.


Section 619 of PL 99-457 amends EHA by mandating states to educate all eligible three-, four-, and five-year-old handicapped children. Variations in programming are encouraged, but local state education agencies must assure that a state's Part B plan for special education includes such items as individualized education prgorams (IEP), parent involvement, least restricted environment, and related services.

Professional Challenges

Under Part H, the list of qualified personnel who are to provide early intervention services to infants and toddlers encludes ten categories of specialists, including special education teachers, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. Physical education and recreation specialists are not a part of the liste even though physical development and psycho-social development are mentioned as early intervention services.

The Federal Register of June 22, 1989, notes that the list of infant and toddler services is not exhaustive and may include other types of services and personnel. If parents request physical education for their infant or toddler as part of the IFSP, the child is entitled to the service. Adapted physical educators may wish to assume a consultant role with a state's ICC to represent and address devlopmental services and programs our profession can provide.

For preschool handicapped children, a mechanism must be developed to achieve a smooth transition from a child's IFSP to the IEP. The profession should develop a process for communicating to parents and others that physical education is a direct service and should be offered to preschool handicapped children.

At this crucial time, what pre- and in-service programs will colleges and universities implement to meet manpower needs at the preschool level? For FY 1989, the U.S. Department of Educaiton awarded just one grant, out of 42 approved grants, to prepare specialsts in adapted physica education and therapeutic recreation to work with handicapped children ages 0-5. With the time remaining before full implementation of PL 99-457 in FY 1991, what additional efforts might we pursue to meet the devlopmental needs of handicapped children starting at birth?