Early Learning Sensory Support Program

SECTION CHIEF:: Sherri Vernelson 984.236.2584



North Carolina Early Learning Sensory Support Program (NC-ELSSP) is a state funded direct service provider for young children with visual and or hearing impairments aged birth to 5 years old and their families. Services for children and families are provided in all 100 counties in North Carolina by licensed staff that have specialized training to meet the unique needs of children who are visually and or hearing impaired. Services are provided in the children’s natural environments which may include their homes, childcare centers, and schools. NC Early Learning Sensory Support Program empowers and collaborates with parents and families to help their children attain their life long goals through early learning opportunities. NC Early Learning Sensory Support staff is dedicated to educating children, families, colleagues, and other service providers through their knowledge of vision and hearing impairments.

NC Early Learning Sensory Support Program Services:

  • Functional Vision Assessments (VI)
  • Occupational Therapy (VI)
  • Orientation and Mobility Services (VI)
  • Pre-Braille and Braille Training (VI)
  • Learning Media Assessments (VI)
  • Direct Instruction to address Sensory Needs (VI & HI)
  • Professional Development for Providers (VI & HI)
  • Training and Support for Families (VI & HI)
  • Language Assessments (HI)

The vision of the NC-ELSSP is, “each child will be honored, respected, and empowered to achieve success in school and life.” In support of this, we know that hearing and vision are key pathways for learning in early childhood. All children learn at their own pace. Children with vision and or hearing impairments can maximize their learning potential when provided with unique strategies and given direct, intentional instruction specific to their vision and or hearing needs.

2023 ELSSP Brochure (English)

2023 ELSSP Brochure (Spanish)

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  •  The Early Learning Sensory Support Program (ELSSP) is administered by the Office of Exceptional Children in the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.  The primary purpose of the ELSSP is to provide direct services to young children with visual or hearing impairments and their families as well as provide support to other professionals.  The ELSSP provides these services to children birth through two years of age under Part C of IDEA.  When capacity is available and in locations that do not have qualified staff and are in primarily rural areas, the ELSSP may serve children with hearing or vision impairments ages three to 5 under IDEA Part B. An additional goal of the ELSSP Assurances is to support the Local Education Agency (LEA) to build capacity to serve students beyond age five so that contracting services, which are often costly, may not be necessary.  

Request for Services Forms for Public School Systems

If you are a Public School system and would like more information about how the NC Early Learning Sensory Support Program might be able to serve you, please contact:

Hitty Chiott, Intake Coordinator NC-ELSSP-VI 
Mandy Hice, Intake Coordinator NC-ELSSP-HI

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For Parents of Children Birth to Three

If you have a child under the age of three with a vision loss, hearing loss, or both, please visit the NC Infant Toddler Program website at https://beearly.nc.gov. Here you will find more information about the process to enroll your child in the NC Early Intervention Program for children with disabilities. Once you have made contact with the NC Infant Toddler Program and are in the enrollment process, please request a referral to the Early Learning Sensory Support Program.

  • For Medical Providers and Other Professionals

For information regarding the referral process and referral form for a child with visual impairment, please contact:

Hitty Chiott, Intake Coordinator NC ELSSP -Visual Impairment 
Mandy Hice, Intake Coordinator NC-ELSSP-Hearing Impairment