What preschool programs are available at Starting Early?

The Starting Early Preschool enrolls typically developing children in our integrated class settings.   Starting Early provides innovative educational programming while utilizing best practice in early childhood.  Starting Early has collaborations with Head Start and local school districts for the provision of Universal Prekindergarten programs.


Head StartAnalla  Jamarra

Head Start is a federally funded comprehensive early childhood educational program serving income eligible families.


For eligibility criteria at our Huntington campus click on the following link

Huntington Head Start

For eligibility criteria at our Ronkomkoma campus click on the following link

Ronkonkoma Head Start



Making silly puttyUniversal Prekindergarten

Universal Pre-K students must be four-years of age on or before December 1st or otherwise eligible to attend kindergarten the following school year.  You must reside in either the Huntington or Connetquot School Districts.


For Huntington residents please contact Michelle Lawrence (631) 266-4417

For Ronkonkoma residents please contact Connetquot School District

Connetquot Universal PreK 






Madison  KaylaStarting Early Preschool

The Huntington and Ronkonkoma Campus’ of Starting Early run a tuition based preschool school program for children aged 2-5 years old.  Mommy n’ Me classes are also available.

For more information please contact:

Huntington Campus : Loyda Mastrelli – (631) 266-4413

Ronkonkoma Campus : Kimberly Farge – (631) 580 -4031

What is a Residential School?residentialschool

Our education program is governed by New York State Education Department (NYSED) and the residential program is governed by Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).  We serve students ages 5-21.  The Residential School was designed to provide twenty four hour intensive education and training to children with developmental disabilities in New York State. Students’ plans are developed by a clinical team of professionals to increase levels of independence in the areas such as self care, independent living, life safety, communication, academic and vocational skills. It is our objective that upon graduation from our program, the student would be living a fulfilling life working and residing in a community setting with the least amount of support possible. All of our teaching practices stem from the replication of the documented research and principles of Applied Behavior Analysis and Positive Behavior Supports.  Aligning our program with these principles requires that data are collected as evidence and support of curriculum and procedures used. 


How do I know if my child needs a Residential School?

Students who require 24 hour programming in order to make progress may be potential candates for a Residential School.  Students who are at risk for or who are served in out of state placements are also potential candidates.   Students must have an educational classification of Autism, Multiple Disabilities or Intellectual Disabilities.  Every individual must meet OPWDD eligibility requirements. 


How do I refer my child to the Residential School? 

The parent and school district agree on the need for a 24 hour placement for the student at a CSE meeting.  Then the district sends out referral packets to residential programs.  The Children's Residential Program (CRP) at DDI receives the packet, which is disseminated to representatives from both CRP and Children’s Day program (CDP) to review.  The joint Residential School admission/discharge screening committee reviews the following documents, which should be included in the packet:  Current Individualized Education Program (IEP), Progress reports, Psychological Evaluation, Behavior Support Plan, Functional Behavior Analysis, Social History, Medical Examination, immunizations, Speech/OT/PT or other reports as applicable.  At times additional information may be need to be obtained ex; medical/behavioral reports.  If the information reviewed indicates the student may be an appropriate candidate for DDI, the student and his/her parents are invited to come to DDI for a screening meeting.


If you require further information and assistance in making a referral, DDI can guide you through the referral process.


     Children’s Residential Program Social Worker:  Nicole Coppack, LMSW – 631-366-2969 

What is the School Age Program?School Age

The School Age Education Program, called Children’s Day Program, serves students age 5 to 21 who have an identified developmental delay or disability.  The school-aged program serves students with a diagnosis of autism, intellectual disabilities, or multiple disabilities.  We serve students with no regard to race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender, national origin or sponsor.  We welcome diversity.


What services are available through Children's Day Program?

In two school campuses, all class groupings of 6 students are taught by one teacher and three teaching Assistants.   There is one class of 12 students with one teacher and 4 Teaching Assistants.  Related services ( Speech, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Prevocational/Transition services, Psychological Services) are pushed in to the students’ environment so everyone working with the student can generalize the target skills in the context of functional activities. 

Programmatic services include a curriculum coordinator, Adapted Physical Education, Art, Music and Technology services and community outings. 

Clinical supports include Behavior Support Workers, Behavior Specialists, Clinical Coordinators, Psychologists.  Our program is overseen by Board Certified Behavior Analysts. 


How do I refer my child to the Childrens Day Program? 

Students attend the Children’s Day Program (CDP) at the approval of the students’ home School Districts. 

Referral packets are sent to the CDP by school districts after there has been a CSE meeting during which a decision to explore DDI as a possible educational placement has been made.  When we receive an appropriate referral, the student and family are invited to come in for a screening by a Transdisciplinary Screening Team.  Screenings and admissions to the program are carried out throughout the year.  DDI teachers, therapists and behavior specialists work with the CSE and parent to develop or modify appropriate IEP goals for students once they enter program.  A CSE meeting will be scheduled within 4-6 weeks after admission in order to discuss goals with the CSE.  No student shall be required to obtain a prescription for a drug or other substance as a condition of attending our school. 


If you require further information and assistance in making a referral, DDI can guide you through the referral process.


Huntington: Karen Kiernan - (ages 5-21) 631 266-4420

Smithtown: Kiera Essling - (ages 14-21) 631 366-2989

Preschool Special Education

What is Preschool Special Education?       


The New York State Education Department (NYSED), Office of Special Education oversees a statewide preschool special education program with school districts, municipalities, approved providers and parents.


Evaluations and specially planned individual or group instructional services or programs are provided to eligible children who have a disability that affects their learning.


Funding for these special education programs and services is provided by municipalities and the State.


DDI is a New York State Education approved provider with three locations in Suffolk County; Huntington, Ronkonkoma, and Medford. 


DDI currently has two special education preschool programs: The Starting Early Program and The Young Autism Program.



How Will I Know if My Child Needs Special Education? 


If your child received early intervention services as an infant or toddler up to age three, and may still need special education, your service coordinator will assist you with transition planning and making a referral to the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE).

If your preschool-age child (3-5 years old) did not receive early intervention services, but has some delays or lags in development such as difficulty in talking, moving around, thinking, or learning or is facing physical or behavioral challenges — you, or professionals who know your child, may make a referral to the chairperson of your school district's Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) who will assist you in completing the referral process.


If you require more information about the referral process and/or believe your child requires an evaluation, please call:


      Huntington: Loyda Mastrelli, Evaluation Coordinator, (631) 266-4413 Email Loyda


      Ronkonkoma & Medford: Jeanne Rubbo, Evaluation Coordinator, (631) 580-4024 Email Jeanne


Services for all eligible children are provided at no cost to families.


Funding for these programs is through NYSEDNassau and Suffolk DOH.


What is Early Intervention?

Early Intervention is a statewide program that provides a variety of services to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. In New York State, the Department of Health is the lead state agency responsible for the Early Intervention Program. To be eligible for services, children must be under 3 years of age and have a confirmed disability or an established developmental delay, as defined by the State, in one or more of the following areas of development: physical, cognitive, communication, social-emotional, and/or adaptive.


Developmental Disabilities Institute is approved by the New York State Department of Health and is under contract with Nassau & Suffolk counties to complete evaluations and provide services. 


What services are available through Early Intervention?

Early intervention services are most effective when they take place in the child’s natural environment and when there is active family involvement. Services include: special instruction, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and family education and support. Services may be provided in the child's home, day care center, library and early childhood programs and centers. DDI currently has two early intervention programs, Starting Early and  Young Autism Program. Center based programs are available at Huntington, Ronkonkoma and Medford.


How do I refer my child to the Early Intervention Program? 

Your first step into the Early Intervention Program begins with a referral to your county's Early Intervention Official (EIO). A referral can be made by the child's parents or pediatrician.

  • Nassau County Department of Health - (516) 227-8661
  • Suffolk County Department of Health - (631) 853-3100 


If you require further information and assistance in making a referral, DDI can guide you through the referral process.

  • Huntington: Loyda Mastrelli, Evaluation Coordinator, (631) 266-4413 Email Loyda
  • Ronkonkoma & Medford: Jeanne Rubbo, Evaluation Coordinator, (631) 580-4024 Email Jeanne

Services for all eligible children are provided at no cost to families. Funding for the early Intervention program is through NYSDOHNassau and Suffolk DOH.