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204 I NTERVENTION IN SCHOOL AND CLINIC VOL . 42, NO. 4, MARCH 2007 ( PP . 204–211) From Early Intervention to Early Childhood Programs: Timeline for Early Successful Transitions (TEST) J OYCE A. B RANDES , C HRISTINE K. O RMSBEE , AND K ATHRYN A. HARING More than one million transitions between early intervention services and early childhood programs are facilitated annually for youngsters with special needs. To be successful, these transitions require planning and ongoing communication between all parties. This article substantiates the need for a timeline/checklist and provides a model of sequen- tial steps from onset to completion of the transition process. The Timeline for Early Successful Transi- tion (TEST) facilitates an effective and well-planned transition that supports the child, family, and ser- vice personnel. E verybody goes through transitional events in 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. By the time a child identified with a developmental delay reaches age 6, he or she most likely will have expe- rienced at least two transitions relevant to education. These may include entering and exiting an early interven- tion (EI) program, early childhood (EC) program, and, in many states, an elementary program. These moves trans- late into at least 1.5 million early childhood school- related transitions each year in the United States (Coun- cil for Exceptional Children, 2001). For these transitions to be effective and go relatively smoothly, appropriate planning and communication is necessary (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000; Yeboah, 2002). The movement from infant/toddler (ages 0–2) to preschool (ages 3–5) services requires a change in where 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

From Early Intervention to Early Childhood Programs · transition from early intervention to preschool services. Such a plan needs to systematically •incorporate ways to orient

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  • 204 INTERVENTION IN SCHOOL AND CLINIC VOL. 42, NO. 4, MARCH 2007 (PP. 204–211)

    From EarlyIntervention to

    Early ChildhoodPrograms:

    Timeline for Early SuccessfulTransitions (TEST)



    More than one million transitions between earlyintervention services and early childhood programsare facilitated annually for youngsters with specialneeds. To be successful, these transitions requireplanning and ongoing communication between allparties. This article substantiates the need for atimeline/checklist and provides a model of sequen-tial steps from onset to completion of the transitionprocess. The Timeline for Early Successful Transi-tion (TEST) facilitates an effective and well-plannedtransition that supports the child, family, and ser-vice personnel.

    E verybody goes through transitional events inlife. Milestones, such as your first steps, yourfirst words, birthdays, and anniversaries, markthis process from infancy into adulthood. Re-lated to education, transitional events such asgrade levels achieved, diplomas earned, and employmentattained serve as markers and are assumed to be naturaltransitions in that they are predictable.

    By the time a child identified with a developmentaldelay reaches age 6, he or she most likely will have expe-rienced at least two transitions relevant to education.These may include entering and exiting an early interven-tion (EI) program, early childhood (EC) program, and, inmany states, an elementary program. These moves trans-late into at least 1.5 million early childhood school-related transitions each year in the United States (Coun-cil for Exceptional Children, 2001). For these transitionsto be effective and go relatively smoothly, appropriateplanning and communication is necessary (Shonkoff &Phillips, 2000; Yeboah, 2002).

    The movement from infant/toddler (ages 0–2) topreschool (ages 3–5) services requires a change in whereservices take place, how families are involved, and the ed-ucational and supportive expectations of service providers(Fox, Dunlap, & Cushing, 2002). A timeline delineatingwho will be involved and when helps ensure a seamlesstransition between meaningful educational opportunitiesand services for a child with special needs. This articlewill describe the instrument, Timeline for Early Successful

  • VOL. 42, NO. 4, MARCH 2007 205

    Transition (TEST), which is built around the two majorcomponents of smooth and successful transitions: plan-ning and communication.


    Program continuity through developmentally appropri-ate curricula can only be accomplished through adequateplanning (Rosenkoetter, Hains, & Fowler, 1994). The In-dividuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of1997 (IDEA ’97), and Title 34, Parts 300 and 303 of theCode of Federal Regulations (CFR) mandate that the In-dividualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) include stepsthat facilitate transition of a young child with disabilitiesto appropriate EC programs and services. IDEA ’97 fur-ther directs the EI agency to notify the local educationagency at least 90 days prior to the child’s third birthdayto schedule a conference that brings together representa-tives of the sending and receiving agencies with the child’sfamily members to plan a meaningful transition withminimal disruption to the family. Keeping families in-volved in their children’s education is of primary impor-tance (Lucyshyn, Dunlap, & Albin, 2002; Shonkoff &Phillips, 2000; Webster-Stratton, 1998) and must be ac-commodated. To ensure continuity of appropriate sup-port and services, a minimum of 6 to 12 months issuggested for planning for and placement of a child in hisor her new environment.

    Preparation of Child

    The change in location of services, service providers, andprograms is disruptive and a source of increased stress forboth the young child and the family (Rosenkoetter et al.,1994; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). This strain can be morepronounced when the child, the sending agency, and thechild’s family are not adequately prepared for thosechanges (Bruder & Chandler, 1996). An important part ofpreparing the child is the development and generaliza-tion of transition skills and behaviors that link the sendingprogram to the receiving program. These may include (a) social behavior and self-care skills, (b) motivation andproblem-solving skills, (c) pre-academic or academic sup-port skills and task-related behavior, and (d) communica-tion skills.

    Systematic Approach

    Additional preparation for the change in personnel andlocation of services should follow a sequential transitionthat involves the following:

    1. A representative of the sending agency arranges avisit and accompanies the parents or guardians in observing potential programs.

    2. Parents or guardians and their child visit potentialprogram sites when these are not in session.

    3. Parents or guardians and their child visit potentialprograms seen as viable placement options for ashort time while classes are in session.

    This systematic approach allows the parents orguardians and their child to observe and consider pro-gram options, interact with prospective service providers,and become familiar with the new environment gradu-ally. It also provides information parents and guardianscan use to help their child acquire the prerequisite skillspreviously mentioned. Representatives of the sending andpossible receiving agencies are actively involved at thisstage, assuring families and the child of a more produc-tive experience (Fox et al., 2002).


    Through this process, educators in the prospective agen-cies have opportunities to establish rapport with the par-ents or guardians in informal environments while sharingthe expectations of the placements and programs. Asidefrom directly stating these standards at the time of thevisit, the teachers can also provide the parents or guardianswith (a) class and school newsletters, (b) their names andthose of other professionals with whom the child may beworking, and (c) school telephone numbers (Fox et al.,2002). Establishing positive communication with the par-ents and guardians helps ease the potential awkwardnessof formal assessment, placement meetings, and workingwith so many strangers. Careful consideration and a gen-erous amount of time, attention, and support have beenshown to be effective in supporting parents and guardiansso that their child’s needs can be met (Harrower, Fox, Dun-lap, & Kincaid, 2000; Timm, 1993).


    When children transition from an EI program withIFSPs to EC programs with Individualized EducationPlans (IEP), families are concerned about understandingwhat will happen with the children (Rosenkoetter et al.,1994). IFSPs address both children and their families aspriorities for early intervention services. In many statesthis includes a home-based early intervention model.The objective is not only to work with the children butalso to offer support and education to the parents andguardians during the home visits (IDEA, 1997). Regularhome-based contact and consultation with a trained pro-fessional supports family members and provides regularopportunities for communication about the needs, con-cerns, and desires of the families for their children (Baileyet al., 1998). Families fear losing this important compo-nent when their children transition from an EI program


    to an EC program. In particular, they fear that decisionsregarding placement, programs, and curriculum will bemade without their input or agreement (Bailey et al.,1998; Harrower et al., 2000). This concern is fed becausethe focus of IEPs is that the child’s program is providedby EC personnel away from the family environment, asopposed to the EI program where the child’s needs areaddressed through the strengths and needs of the family.


    In the transition to preschool, most families are learningnew vocabulary and procedures relevant to their child’ssituation. In this process, it is important to be sensitive toparents’ need for information that is fully and clearly pre-sented (Fox et al., 2002; Lovett & Haring, 2002). Profes-sionals must field parents’ or guardians’ questions andcheck frequently for accurate understanding. They mustalso plan for follow-up visits, phone calls, notes, and ac-companying parents and guardians to meetings. Strongsupport must come from both sending and receivingagencies as they work collaboratively to ensure continu-ity of services and support to both the family and the child(Harrower et al., 2000). Finally, parents and guardiansmust be regarded as equal partners on the decision-mak-ing team (Bruder & Chandler, 1996).

    Family Involvement

    According to Harrower et al. (2000), families should par-ticipate in developing a clear plan to facilitate their child’stransition from early intervention to preschool services.Such a plan needs to systematically

    • incorporate ways to orient the child and family to thereceiving site,

    • outline methods for supporting the child and familyin building competence and confidence (Harrower et al., 2000; Rosenkoetter et al., 1994), and

    • 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 rolesand responsibilities of all participants (i.e., sending andreceiving agencies, family members, and community agen-cies) must be defined and understood by all parties in-volved in the process. These basic guidelines ensure thetransition is relatively seamless and that the child and fam-ily members experience a supportive and positive changein service delivery.

    TEST Instrument

    When parents and guardians were interviewed regardingtheir satisfaction with their child’s transition, a large ma-jority stated that they prefer a checklist to help with thetransition process and to guide visits to the receiving en-vironments (Chandler, 2001). When checklists/timelinesare followed, all parties are systematically informed, in-volved, and prepared for events such as school districtassessments, IEP meetings, and the transportation sched-ule (Hanline & Knowlton, 1988). A plan that outlines atimeline with expectations helps guarantee cooperation,communication, and continuity in a child’s program (Foxet al., 2002). The TEST systematically supports moni-toring and completion of assessments, meetings, planning,and scheduling of transportation and other related ser-vices by prescribing a timely and sequential approach fora child, his family, and members of the team. Each mem-ber on the transition team maintains a copy of the TESTto facilitate communication among the team members.

    TEST Contact Information

    In the following section we look at the major compo-nents of TEST and explain their purposes and use.

    First Through Third Sections. The first element of theTEST is the child’s name and the date of his or her 3rdbirthday featured prominently at the top of each page ofthe Contact Information and Sequence form (see Figure1 and Figure 2). This component serves as a prompt thatthe transition from EI services to EC services must becompleted by the child’s third birthday. The second sec-tion on the TEST Contact Information form is used toidentify contact information regarding the child’s parentsor guardians. The third section serves as a brief meetinglog that notes the date when the transition process wasinitiated, the date when the process was completed, andall meetings held between those two dates. These datescould easily represent a span of 12 months.

  • Timeline for Early Successful Transition for John Smith 3rd Birthday November 18, 2006

    Family InformationJoe & Ann Smith 1234 Anywhere Street 321-7887 322-0399

    Anywhere, US 74123

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

    MeetingsNovember 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 MeetingDate/Time Date/Time Date/Time Date/Time Date/Time Date/Time

    AgenciesSooner Start 3840 Sooner Start Street 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 916-3244 916-0468Norman, OK 77073

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

    Oklahoma County 1409 Health Avenue 979-3614 979-4669Health Department Norman, OK 77074

    Community Agency (CA) Street and/or P.O. Box E-mail Primary Phone Other PhoneTown, State & Zip Code

    Dr. Rand 7204 Jones Boulevard 950-0830 972-1118Norman, OK 77070

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

    Agency PersonnelMs. Gorman Speech Pathologist 895-0411 191-8904Early Intervention (EI) Position E-mail Primary Phone Other PhoneResource Person

    Mr. Kay OT 892-1022 892-1023EI Related Service Position E-mail Primary Phone Other PhoneResource Person

    Mrs. Brink PT 922-0331 947-1018EI Related Service Position E-mail Primary Phone Other PhoneResource Person

    Mrs. Curran Teacher 916-0730 916-1018Early Childhood (EC) Position E-mail Primary Phone Other PhoneResource Person

    Mrs. Guney Speech Pathologist 976-0515 976-9119EC Related Service Position E-mail Primary Phone Other PhoneResource Person

    Ms. Engel OT 908-0630 947-0206EC Related Service Position E-mail Primary Phone Other PhoneResource Person

    Ms. Brennan PT 912-0401 944-1219EC Related Service Position E-mail Primary Phone Other PhoneResource Person

    Mr. Wall Counselor 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 ! IFSP reviewed and updated including Family Date

    transition plan! General timeline and transition plan

    developed ! Possible outcomes of transition ______________

    discussed Initials of person! Community resources discussed/ determining this has

    explored been accomplished ! Assessments scheduled (if needed)

    24–33 Visits Sending agencya _____________months ! LEA preschools Family Date

    ! Community programs Receiving agency

    Community agencies

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

    30–33 Eligibility/transition meeting Sending agencya _____________months ! IFSP reviewed Family Date

    ! Assessment results analyzed Receiving agency! Eligibility determined Community agencies ______________! Possible placement options discussed Initials of person ! Transition plan and timeline finalized determining this has! IEP meeting scheduled been accomplishedVisit to potential programs

    33–36 Placement/IEP meeting Receiving agencya _____________months ! Identification of program(s) or Family Date

    combination of programs Sending agency! IEP completed Community agencies ______________

    Initials of person determining this hasbeen accomplished

    By 3rd IEP in effect Receiving agencya _____________birthday Enrollment in LEA—possible documents Family Date

    ! Birth certificate Community agencies! Social Security card ______________! Immunization and health records Initials of person ! Records from former programs determining this has! Medicaid number and card copy been accomplished! 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 = earlyintervention (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.

  • VOL. 42, NO. 4, MARCH 2007 209

    Fourth Through Fifth Sections. The fourth section is com-prised of contact information of agencies involved withthe child’s transition: (a) EI agency (i.e., Sooner Start); (b) EC agency/preschool (i.e., Kendall Preschool); (c) com-munity agency (CA; i.e., Oklahoma County Health De-partment); and (d) a psychologist and/or psychometrist.

    The fifth section serves to identify team membersby their names. The first part is intended for membersfrom the EI agency, and the second part is for membersof the EC team—resource person and related servicespersonnel. The third part is intended for the name of theappropriate CA resource person. A psychologist may belisted in any of the sections depending on the role of thatperson in the transition process and beyond. Because theteam members listed are usually part of the process frominception to completion, it is expected that the names willremain relatively constant. Identification of team membersand their contact information is an important first step inestablishing and facilitating communication while gener-ating and implementing an effective transition plan.

    TEST Sequence

    The scaffolding represented in this timeline is a proposedsequence of events designed to ensure a seamless tran-sition for the child and his or her family. Though par-titioned in the TEST instrument, there is an expecteddegree of overlap in the child’s age at the time of service.It is important to maintain a degree of flexibility in activ-ity planning to benefit from optimum times for each fam-ily and their child. That is, there may be a situationoccurring in a family, such as a medical crisis, that im-pacts the family emotionally and physically, thus hinder-ing their availability.

    The Activity column lists the actions required dur-ing a given time, such as 24 to 30 months. The third col-umn, Participants, recognizes the minimum number ofindividuals from the potential groups involved at a givenstage, with the leader being identified by an asterisk. Ad-ditional personnel may be added at the discretion of theteam at any stage of the process. Specific identification ofthe lead participant facilitates clear communication byidentifying who is responsible for planning, coordinat-ing, or facilitating a sequence of activities at any stage inthe process. Possible leaders include the Sending Agency,which refers to the representative of the EI agency; Fam-ily, which includes anyone in the child’s family or anyonewho has demonstrated a vested interest in the well-beingof the child and been invited by the family to be part of theteam (e.g., friend or family advocate); Receiving Agency,which is identified as the representative of the EC pro-gram in a local education agency; and Community Agen-cies, which may include a representative of the HealthDepartment, court advocate, and so forth. Though facil-itators in the transition process often are responsible forsetting meetings and have been identified as sending and

    receiving agencies, it must be noted that any member ofthe team can request a meeting.

    A space for notes is provided in the next column toensure that decisions and topics that need to be revisitedare included on the planning instrument itself. This alsohelps reduce the possibility of issues being overlooked orforgotten.

    The final column provides a place for each person tomark the form when tasks and activities have been ac-complished. This helps keep track of the sequence of activities addressed and the need to continue with theprocess in a sequential and timely manner. Finally, ithelps all members of the transition team monitor wherethey have been, where they are going, and when the tran-sition is targeted for completion. This is important interms of staying focused and experiencing a sense of ac-complishment as each milestone is met (Moxley, 1998).

    Twenty-Four to Thirty Months. Between the child’s 24thand 30th months, the EI agency arranges a meeting forall members of the child’s team—members of the child’sfamily and any other person identified as needing to beincluded in this stage of the process. As illustrated inFigure 2, the purpose of the meeting is to review and up-date the IFSP and to develop a component that addressesthe child’s transition from his or her current EI programto an EC program. The transition timeline is revisitedfrequently throughout the process to assure its appropri-ateness. Additional topics to be addressed include deter-mination of a general timeline and possible outcomes ofthe transition, exploration of community resources, andscheduling of evaluations and assessments. At the firstmeeting, the TEST instrument is distributed to all mem-bers of the team and serves as a guide for monitoringcommunication and implementation of an effective tran-sition plan. As additional members join the team, theTEST instrument is provided, along with pertinent in-formation gathered up to that point.

    Twenty-Four to Thirty-Three Months. Activities that takeplace between the child’s 24th and 33rd months involvevisits by family members and appropriate team membersto potential EC programs of the local education agency.These visits are coordinated and facilitated through theEI provider. If appropriate, the EI provider also arrangesfor and assists the family in exploring other potential pro-grams and placement options that may play a role in thechild’s education and transition plan. These may includeprograms such as Head Start and community agencies.

    In addition to visits and observations, necessary eval-uations and assessments are conducted. The EI providerensures that the family receives accurate information re-garding the purpose of the evaluation and its role in thetransition process. Assessment of a young child can betime consuming and difficult to conduct, so it is suggestedthat assessments be started relatively early. By allowing


    ample time for conducting the evaluation of the child,the stress experienced by the child and his or her family,as well as the sending and receiving agencies, is reduced.An early start also allows for an unhurried analysis of theresults. Consequently, each team member has an oppor-tunity to make recommendations based on results thatwere acquired in an appropriate, unhurried, and timelymanner. Following the completion of the assessmentsand evaluations, an eligibility/transition meeting is sched-uled to occur between the child’s 30th and 33rd month.

    Thirty to Thirty-Three Months. With the EI agency stillserving as lead coordinator, members of the family, localeducation agency, and identified community agencieshold an eligibility/transition meeting. The purpose ofthis meeting is to (a) review the current IFSP, (b) reviewthe results of the evaluations, and (c) determine eligibil-ity. If the child does not qualify for special education, thecase is closed and the team is disbanded.

    If the child qualifies for special services, placementoptions that ensure maintenance of acquired skills andthe introduction of new skills are considered. The ECrepresentative facilitates additional visits to potential pro-grams for the families, if warranted. In addition, the ECrepresentative schedules an IEP/placement meeting, inwhich all members of the team participate, to occur be-fore the child’s 3rd birthday. It is important to note thatthough some teams develop the IEP at the eligibilitymeeting, this practice is not recommended. For manyfamilies, the impact of their child qualifying for specialeducation services is daunting. They may be more effec-tive team members and advocates for their child if theyare given time to assimilate the information presentedand decisions rendered. A few weeks can be helpful toallow family members time to determine priorities theywant considered by the team when the IEP is developed.

    Thirty-Three to Thirty-Six Months. Although federal lawmandates that the IEP is due by the child’s 3rd birthday,it is best practice to complete this step a few weeks aheadof time. This advance preparation allows for addressingany unforeseen obstacles and for ensuring that every-thing is in place by the time the child starts his or her newplacement.

    At the placement/IEP meeting, the EC programsdetermined to be most appropriate are identified and anIEP is generated that addresses goals and short-term ob-jectives for the child’s educational program and relatedservices. At this meeting, families are often encouragedto enroll their child. Documentation that may need to beprovided at enrollment can include the child’s birth cer-tificate, social security card, immunization and healthrecords, records from former/current programs, Medic-aid number and card copy (if applicable), and proof ofresidence.


    Moving between settings, people, and situations happensto all of us on a regular basis. For individuals with dis-abilities, development of effective skills for these transi-tions is of critical importance. To experience successfultransitions early, these individuals and their families mustreceive guidance and support from qualified, knowledge-able individuals using effective communication andtimely planning. This responsibility can be overwhelm-ing to even the most experienced educator.

    An instrument such as the Timeline for Early Success-ful Transition addresses the tasks of coordination, com-munication, and planning and makes the process easierand more positive and successful. TEST provides guide-lines for early identification and systematic involvementof all parties needed in the planning and implementationof a successful transition. This approach ensures a seam-less process and that the best interest of the child andfamily have been served and incorporated into an effec-tive transition plan.


    Joyce A. Brandes, PhD, is an assistant professor of special ed-ucation at the University of Oklahoma. Her current researchinterests include early childhood, autism, preparation of preser-vice special educators, and literacy. Christine K. Ormsbee, PhD,is a professor of special education at Oklahoma State Univer-sity. Her current research interests include preassessment, au-tism, and effective instruction for children with exceptionalities.Kathryn A. Haring, PhD, is a professor of special education atthe University of Oklahoma. Her current research interests in-clude early childhood special education, family systems theory,and literacy. Address: Joyce A. Brandes, University of Oklahoma,Educational Psychology, 820 Van Vleet Oval, # 302, Norman,OK 73019-2041; e-mail:


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    sues address an identified problem, trend, or sub-ject of concern and importance to early inter-vention. TECSE accepts articles for review on acontinual basis through its online submissionsite; therefore, authors do not have to make orsubmit multiple copies.

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    Topics in Early Childhood Special Education