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From Early

Intervention to
Early Childhood
Programs:
Timeline for Early Successful
Transitions (TEST)

J O Y C E A. B R A N D E S ,
C H R I S T I N E K. O R M S B E E ,
AND K AT H RY N A. H A R I N G

More than one million transitions between early By the time a child identified with a developmental
intervention services and early childhood programs delay reaches age 6, he or she most likely will have expe-
are facilitated annually for youngsters with special rienced at least two transitions relevant to education.
needs. To be successful, these transitions require These may include entering and exiting an early interven-
planning and ongoing communication between all tion (EI) program, early childhood (EC) program, and, in
parties. This article substantiates the need for a many states, an elementary program. These moves trans-
timeline/checklist and provides a model of sequen- late into at least 1.5 million early childhood school-
tial steps from onset to completion of the transition related transitions each year in the United States (Coun-
process. The Timeline for Early Successful Transi- cil for Exceptional Children, 2001). For these transitions
tion (TEST) facilitates an effective and well-planned to be effective and go relatively smoothly, appropriate
transition that supports the child, family, and ser- planning and communication is necessary (Shonkoff &
vice personnel. Phillips, 2000; Yeboah, 2002).
The movement from infant/toddler (ages 0–2) to
verybody goes through transitional events in preschool (ages 3–5) services requires a change in where

E life. Milestones, such as your first steps, your


first words, birthdays, and anniversaries, mark
this process from infancy into adulthood. Re-
lated to education, transitional events such as
grade levels achieved, diplomas earned, and employment
attained serve as markers and are assumed to be natural
transitions in that they are predictable.
services take place, how families are involved, and the ed-
ucational and supportive expectations of service providers
(Fox, Dunlap, & Cushing, 2002). A timeline delineating
who will be involved and when helps ensure a seamless
transition between meaningful educational opportunities
and services for a child with special needs. This article
will describe the instrument, Timeline for Early Successful

204 I NTERVENTION IN S CHOOL AND C LINIC VOL . 42, N O. 4, M ARCH 2007 ( PP. 204–211)
Transition (TEST), which is built around the two major 2. Parents or guardians and their child visit potential
components of smooth and successful transitions: plan- program sites when these are not in session.
ning and communication. 3. Parents or guardians and their child visit potential
programs seen as viable placement options for a
short time while classes are in session.
Planning
This systematic approach allows the parents or
Program continuity through developmentally appropri- guardians and their child to observe and consider pro-
ate curricula can only be accomplished through adequate gram options, interact with prospective service providers,
planning (Rosenkoetter, Hains, & Fowler, 1994). The In- and become familiar with the new environment gradu-
dividuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of ally. It also provides information parents and guardians
1997 (IDEA ’97), and Title 34, Parts 300 and 303 of the can use to help their child acquire the prerequisite skills
Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) mandate that the In- previously mentioned. Representatives of the sending and
dividualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) include steps possible receiving agencies are actively involved at this
that facilitate transition of a young child with disabilities stage, assuring families and the child of a more produc-
to appropriate EC programs and services. IDEA ’97 fur- tive experience (Fox et al., 2002).
ther directs the EI agency to notify the local education
agency at least 90 days prior to the child’s third birthday Rapport
to schedule a conference that brings together representa-
tives of the sending and receiving agencies with the child’s Through this process, educators in the prospective agen-
family members to plan a meaningful transition with cies have opportunities to establish rapport with the par-
minimal disruption to the family. Keeping families in- ents or guardians in informal environments while sharing
volved in their children’s education is of primary impor- the expectations of the placements and programs. Aside
tance (Lucyshyn, Dunlap, & Albin, 2002; Shonkoff & from directly stating these standards at the time of the
Phillips, 2000; Webster-Stratton, 1998) and must be ac- visit, the teachers can also provide the parents or guardians
commodated. To ensure continuity of appropriate sup- with (a) class and school newsletters, (b) their names and
port and services, a minimum of 6 to 12 months is those of other professionals with whom the child may be
suggested for planning for and placement of a child in his working, and (c) school telephone numbers (Fox et al.,
or her new environment. 2002). Establishing positive communication with the par-
ents and guardians helps ease the potential awkwardness
Preparation of Child of formal assessment, placement meetings, and working
with so many strangers. Careful consideration and a gen-
The change in location of services, service providers, and erous amount of time, attention, and support have been
programs is disruptive and a source of increased stress for shown to be effective in supporting parents and guardians
both the young child and the family (Rosenkoetter et al., so that their child’s needs can be met (Harrower, Fox, Dun-
1994; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). This strain can be more lap, & Kincaid, 2000; Timm, 1993).
pronounced when the child, the sending agency, and the
child’s family are not adequately prepared for those
changes (Bruder & Chandler, 1996). An important part of Communication
preparing the child is the development and generaliza-
tion of transition skills and behaviors that link the sending When children transition from an EI program with
program to the receiving program. These may include IFSPs to EC programs with Individualized Education
(a) social behavior and self-care skills, (b) motivation and Plans (IEP), families are concerned about understanding
problem-solving skills, (c) pre-academic or academic sup- what will happen with the children (Rosenkoetter et al.,
port skills and task-related behavior, and (d) communica- 1994). IFSPs address both children and their families as
tion skills. priorities for early intervention services. In many states
this includes a home-based early intervention model.
Systematic Approach The objective is not only to work with the children but
also to offer support and education to the parents and
Additional preparation for the change in personnel and guardians during the home visits (IDEA, 1997). Regular
location of services should follow a sequential transition home-based contact and consultation with a trained pro-
that involves the following: fessional supports family members and provides regular
opportunities for communication about the needs, con-
1. A representative of the sending agency arranges a cerns, and desires of the families for their children (Bailey
visit and accompanies the parents or guardians in et al., 1998). Families fear losing this important compo-
observing potential programs. nent when their children transition from an EI program

VOL . 42, N O. 4, M ARCH 2007 205


• provide practical recommendations on how to sup-
port the child’s special needs (Lovett & Haring,
2002).

In addition to the communication and support facil-


itated through a clearly written transition plan, the roles
and responsibilities of all participants (i.e., sending and
receiving agencies, family members, and community agen-
cies) must be defined and understood by all parties in-
volved in the process. These basic guidelines ensure the
transition is relatively seamless and that the child and fam-
ily members experience a supportive and positive change
in service delivery.

TEST Instrument
to an EC program. In particular, they fear that decisions When parents and guardians were interviewed regarding
regarding placement, programs, and curriculum will be their satisfaction with their child’s transition, a large ma-
made without their input or agreement (Bailey et al., jority stated that they prefer a checklist to help with the
1998; Harrower et al., 2000). This concern is fed because transition process and to guide visits to the receiving en-
the focus of IEPs is that the child’s program is provided vironments (Chandler, 2001). When checklists/timelines
by EC personnel away from the family environment, as are followed, all parties are systematically informed, in-
opposed to the EI program where the child’s needs are volved, and prepared for events such as school district
addressed through the strengths and needs of the family. assessments, IEP meetings, and the transportation sched-
ule (Hanline & Knowlton, 1988). A plan that outlines a
timeline with expectations helps guarantee cooperation,
Support
communication, and continuity in a child’s program (Fox
In the transition to preschool, most families are learning et al., 2002). The TEST systematically supports moni-
new vocabulary and procedures relevant to their child’s toring and completion of assessments, meetings, planning,
situation. In this process, it is important to be sensitive to and scheduling of transportation and other related ser-
parents’ need for information that is fully and clearly pre- vices by prescribing a timely and sequential approach for
sented (Fox et al., 2002; Lovett & Haring, 2002). Profes- a child, his family, and members of the team. Each mem-
sionals must field parents’ or guardians’ questions and ber on the transition team maintains a copy of the TEST
check frequently for accurate understanding. They must to facilitate communication among the team members.
also plan for follow-up visits, phone calls, notes, and ac-
companying parents and guardians to meetings. Strong
TEST Contact Information
support must come from both sending and receiving
agencies as they work collaboratively to ensure continu- In the following section we look at the major compo-
ity of services and support to both the family and the child nents of TEST and explain their purposes and use.
(Harrower et al., 2000). Finally, parents and guardians
must be regarded as equal partners on the decision-mak-
First Through Third Sections. The first element of the
ing team (Bruder & Chandler, 1996).
TEST is the child’s name and the date of his or her 3rd
birthday featured prominently at the top of each page of
Family Involvement the Contact Information and Sequence form (see Figure
1 and Figure 2). This component serves as a prompt that
According to Harrower et al. (2000), families should par-
the transition from EI services to EC services must be
ticipate in developing a clear plan to facilitate their child’s
completed by the child’s third birthday. The second sec-
transition from early intervention to preschool services.
tion on the TEST Contact Information form is used to
Such a plan needs to systematically
identify contact information regarding the child’s parents
• incorporate ways to orient the child and family to the or guardians. The third section serves as a brief meeting
receiving site, log that notes the date when the transition process was
• outline methods for supporting the child and family initiated, the date when the process was completed, and
in building competence and confidence (Harrower all meetings held between those two dates. These dates
et al., 2000; Rosenkoetter et al., 1994), and could easily represent a span of 12 months.
206 I NTERVENTION IN S CHOOL AND C LINIC
Timeline for Early Successful Transition for John Smith 3rd Birthday November 18, 2006
Family Information
Joe & Ann Smith 1234 Anywhere Street jas@tech.edu 321-7887 322-0399
Anywhere, US 74123

Parents/Guardians Street and/or P.O. Box E-mail Primary Phone Number Other Phone Number
Town, State & Zip Code

Meetings
November 27, 2005 _______________
Date of Initiation of Transition Process Date of Completion of Transition Process
11-27-05 (3:30 p.m.) 2-4-06 (7:30 a.m.) ______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
1st Meeting 2nd Meeting 3rd Meeting 4th Meeting 5th Meeting 6th Meeting
Date/Time Date/Time Date/Time Date/Time Date/Time Date/Time

Agencies
Sooner Start 3840 Sooner Start Street sstart@sss.com 895-5015 895-3558
Norman, OK 77073
Early Intervention Street and/or P.O. Box E-mail Primary Phone Other Phone
(EI) Agency Town, State & Zip Code

Kendall Preschool 1426 Norman Avenue kps@nps.edu 916-3244 916-0468


Norman, OK 77073
Early Childhood (EC) Street and/or P.O. Box E-mail Primary Phone Other Phone
Agency/Preschool Town, State & Zip Code

Oklahoma County 1409 Health Avenue ochd@hdp.org 979-3614 979-4669


Health Department Norman, OK 77074
Community Agency (CA) Street and/or P.O. Box E-mail Primary Phone Other Phone
Town, State & Zip Code

Dr. Rand 7204 Jones Boulevard jsr@ca.com 950-0830 972-1118


Norman, OK 77070
Psychologist and/or Street and/or P.O. Box E-mail Primary Phone Other Phone
Psychometrist Town, State & Zip Code

Agency Personnel
Ms. Gorman Speech Pathologist rgg@sc.edu 895-0411 191-8904
Early Intervention (EI) Position E-mail Primary Phone Other Phone
Resource Person
Mr. Kay OT lvk@nps.edu 892-1022 892-1023
EI Related Service Position E-mail Primary Phone Other Phone
Resource Person
Mrs. Brink PT dab@nps.edu 922-0331 947-1018
EI Related Service Position E-mail Primary Phone Other Phone
Resource Person
Mrs. Curran Teacher gcc@nps.edu 916-0730 916-1018
Early Childhood (EC) Position E-mail Primary Phone Other Phone
Resource Person
Mrs. Guney Speech Pathologist jbg@nps.edu 976-0515 976-9119
EC Related Service Position E-mail Primary Phone Other Phone
Resource Person
Ms. Engel OT jse@nps.edu 908-0630 947-0206
EC Related Service Position E-mail Primary Phone Other Phone
Resource Person
Ms. Brennan PT amb@nps.edu 912-0401 944-1219
EC Related Service Position E-mail Primary Phone Other Phone
Resource Person
Mr. Wall Counselor jbw@rwb.org 979-0510 204-0714

Figure 1. TEST contact information.


Timeline for Early Successful Transition for John Smith 3rd Birthday November 18, 2006
Activities
Child’s age Activity Participant Note accomplished
24–30 IFSP Initial Transition Planning Meeting Sending agencya _____________
months 䊐 IFSP reviewed and updated including Family Date
transition plan
䊐 General timeline and transition plan
developed
䊐 Possible outcomes of transition ______________
discussed Initials of person
䊐 Community resources discussed/ determining this has
explored been accomplished
䊐 Assessments scheduled (if needed)

24–33 Visits Sending agencya _____________


months 䊐 LEA preschools Family Date
䊐 Community programs Receiving agency

Community agencies

______________
Activities Initials of person
䊐 EI assessment administered determining this has
䊐 Assessment report generated been accomplished
䊐 Information gathered from family
䊐 Transition plan re-evaluation
䊐 Eligibility/transition meeting scheduled

30–33 Eligibility/transition meeting Sending agencya _____________


months 䊐 IFSP reviewed Family Date
䊐 Assessment results analyzed Receiving agency
䊐 Eligibility determined Community agencies ______________
䊐 Possible placement options discussed Initials of person
䊐 Transition plan and timeline finalized determining this has
䊐 IEP meeting scheduled been accomplished
Visit to potential programs

33–36 Placement/IEP meeting Receiving agency a _____________


months 䊐 Identification of program(s) or Family Date
combination of programs Sending agency
䊐 IEP completed Community agencies ______________
Initials of person
determining this has
been accomplished

By 3rd IEP in effect Receiving agency a _____________


birthday Enrollment in LEA—possible documents Family Date
䊐 Birth certificate Community agencies
䊐 Social Security card ______________
䊐 Immunization and health records Initials of person
䊐 Records from former programs determining this has
䊐 Medicaid number and card copy been accomplished
䊐 Proof of residence

Figure 2. TEST sequence. Note. Participant = the minimum number of people/agency representatives included (additional indi-
viduals may be invited per the request/approval of the family); IFSP = Individualized Family Support Plan; Sending agency = early
intervention (EI) agency; LEA = local education agency; Receiving agency = early childhood program, such as LEA preschool pro-
gram; IEP = Individualized Education Program.
aPrimary party responsible for coordination and facilitation.

208 I NTERVENTION IN S CHOOL AND C LINIC


Fourth Through Fifth Sections. The fourth section is com- receiving agencies, it must be noted that any member of
prised of contact information of agencies involved with the team can request a meeting.
the child’s transition: (a) EI agency (i.e., Sooner Start); A space for notes is provided in the next column to
(b) EC agency/preschool (i.e., Kendall Preschool); (c) com- ensure that decisions and topics that need to be revisited
munity agency (CA; i.e., Oklahoma County Health De- are included on the planning instrument itself. This also
partment); and (d) a psychologist and/or psychometrist. helps reduce the possibility of issues being overlooked or
The fifth section serves to identify team members forgotten.
by their names. The first part is intended for members The final column provides a place for each person to
from the EI agency, and the second part is for members mark the form when tasks and activities have been ac-
of the EC team—resource person and related services complished. This helps keep track of the sequence of
personnel. The third part is intended for the name of the activities addressed and the need to continue with the
appropriate CA resource person. A psychologist may be process in a sequential and timely manner. Finally, it
listed in any of the sections depending on the role of that helps all members of the transition team monitor where
person in the transition process and beyond. Because the they have been, where they are going, and when the tran-
team members listed are usually part of the process from sition is targeted for completion. This is important in
inception to completion, it is expected that the names will terms of staying focused and experiencing a sense of ac-
remain relatively constant. Identification of team members complishment as each milestone is met (Moxley, 1998).
and their contact information is an important first step in
establishing and facilitating communication while gener- Twenty-Four to Thirty Months. Between the child’s 24th
ating and implementing an effective transition plan. and 30th months, the EI agency arranges a meeting for
all members of the child’s team—members of the child’s
TEST Sequence family and any other person identified as needing to be
included in this stage of the process. As illustrated in
The scaffolding represented in this timeline is a proposed Figure 2, the purpose of the meeting is to review and up-
sequence of events designed to ensure a seamless tran- date the IFSP and to develop a component that addresses
sition for the child and his or her family. Though par- the child’s transition from his or her current EI program
titioned in the TEST instrument, there is an expected to an EC program. The transition timeline is revisited
degree of overlap in the child’s age at the time of service. frequently throughout the process to assure its appropri-
It is important to maintain a degree of flexibility in activ- ateness. Additional topics to be addressed include deter-
ity planning to benefit from optimum times for each fam- mination of a general timeline and possible outcomes of
ily and their child. That is, there may be a situation the transition, exploration of community resources, and
occurring in a family, such as a medical crisis, that im- scheduling of evaluations and assessments. At the first
pacts the family emotionally and physically, thus hinder- meeting, the TEST instrument is distributed to all mem-
ing their availability. bers of the team and serves as a guide for monitoring
The Activity column lists the actions required dur- communication and implementation of an effective tran-
ing a given time, such as 24 to 30 months. The third col- sition plan. As additional members join the team, the
umn, Participants, recognizes the minimum number of TEST instrument is provided, along with pertinent in-
individuals from the potential groups involved at a given formation gathered up to that point.
stage, with the leader being identified by an asterisk. Ad-
ditional personnel may be added at the discretion of the Twenty-Four to Thirty-Three Months. Activities that take
team at any stage of the process. Specific identification of place between the child’s 24th and 33rd months involve
the lead participant facilitates clear communication by visits by family members and appropriate team members
identifying who is responsible for planning, coordinat- to potential EC programs of the local education agency.
ing, or facilitating a sequence of activities at any stage in These visits are coordinated and facilitated through the
the process. Possible leaders include the Sending Agency, EI provider. If appropriate, the EI provider also arranges
which refers to the representative of the EI agency; Fam- for and assists the family in exploring other potential pro-
ily, which includes anyone in the child’s family or anyone grams and placement options that may play a role in the
who has demonstrated a vested interest in the well-being child’s education and transition plan. These may include
of the child and been invited by the family to be part of the programs such as Head Start and community agencies.
team (e.g., friend or family advocate); Receiving Agency, In addition to visits and observations, necessary eval-
which is identified as the representative of the EC pro- uations and assessments are conducted. The EI provider
gram in a local education agency; and Community Agen- ensures that the family receives accurate information re-
cies, which may include a representative of the Health garding the purpose of the evaluation and its role in the
Department, court advocate, and so forth. Though facil- transition process. Assessment of a young child can be
itators in the transition process often are responsible for time consuming and difficult to conduct, so it is suggested
setting meetings and have been identified as sending and that assessments be started relatively early. By allowing

VOL . 42, N O. 4, M ARCH 2007 209


ample time for conducting the evaluation of the child, Conclusion
the stress experienced by the child and his or her family,
as well as the sending and receiving agencies, is reduced. Moving between settings, people, and situations happens
An early start also allows for an unhurried analysis of the to all of us on a regular basis. For individuals with dis-
results. Consequently, each team member has an oppor- abilities, development of effective skills for these transi-
tunity to make recommendations based on results that tions is of critical importance. To experience successful
were acquired in an appropriate, unhurried, and timely transitions early, these individuals and their families must
manner. Following the completion of the assessments receive guidance and support from qualified, knowledge-
and evaluations, an eligibility/transition meeting is sched- able individuals using effective communication and
uled to occur between the child’s 30th and 33rd month. timely planning. This responsibility can be overwhelm-
ing to even the most experienced educator.
Thirty to Thirty-Three Months. With the EI agency still An instrument such as the Timeline for Early Success-
serving as lead coordinator, members of the family, local ful Transition addresses the tasks of coordination, com-
education agency, and identified community agencies munication, and planning and makes the process easier
hold an eligibility/transition meeting. The purpose of and more positive and successful. TEST provides guide-
this meeting is to (a) review the current IFSP, (b) review lines for early identification and systematic involvement
the results of the evaluations, and (c) determine eligibil- of all parties needed in the planning and implementation
ity. If the child does not qualify for special education, the of a successful transition. This approach ensures a seam-
case is closed and the team is disbanded. less process and that the best interest of the child and
If the child qualifies for special services, placement family have been served and incorporated into an effec-
options that ensure maintenance of acquired skills and tive transition plan.
the introduction of new skills are considered. The EC
representative facilitates additional visits to potential pro-
grams for the families, if warranted. In addition, the EC ABOUT THE AUTHORS
representative schedules an IEP/placement meeting, in
which all members of the team participate, to occur be- Joyce A. Brandes, PhD, is an assistant professor of special ed-
fore the child’s 3rd birthday. It is important to note that ucation at the University of Oklahoma. Her current research
though some teams develop the IEP at the eligibility interests include early childhood, autism, preparation of preser-
meeting, this practice is not recommended. For many vice special educators, and literacy. Christine K. Ormsbee, PhD,
is a professor of special education at Oklahoma State Univer-
families, the impact of their child qualifying for special
sity. Her current research interests include preassessment, au-
education services is daunting. They may be more effec- tism, and effective instruction for children with exceptionalities.
tive team members and advocates for their child if they Kathryn A. Haring, PhD, is a professor of special education at
are given time to assimilate the information presented the University of Oklahoma. Her current research interests in-
and decisions rendered. A few weeks can be helpful to clude early childhood special education, family systems theory,
allow family members time to determine priorities they and literacy. Address: Joyce A. Brandes, University of Oklahoma,
want considered by the team when the IEP is developed. Educational Psychology, 820 Van Vleet Oval, # 302, Norman,
OK 73019-2041; e-mail: jbrandes@ou.edu
Thirty-Three to Thirty-Six Months. Although federal law
mandates that the IEP is due by the child’s 3rd birthday,
it is best practice to complete this step a few weeks ahead REFERENCES
of time. This advance preparation allows for addressing
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Rosenkoetter, S. E., Hains, A. H., & Fowler, S. A. (1994). Bridging early

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Topics in Early Childhood
Special Education
TECSE publishes 5 types of manuscripts:
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VOL . 42, N O. 4, M ARCH 2007 211