Early intervention for infants and toddlers with disabilities is a range of services provided to children with developmental disabilities from birth to 3 years of age that helps minimize the need for special education and related services, reduces the need for institutionalization, maximizes the child's potential for independent living, and provides support and assistance to the family.
What is early intervention for infants and toddlers with disabilities?
The term "early intervention" refers to many different services. Children who are experiencing a developmental delay or disability include those who have been diagnosed by a multidisciplinary team as having a significant delay in one or more of the following areas of development: physical, including gross and fine motor, hearing and vision; cognitive; communication; social or emotional; and adaptive skills. Appropriate testing, observations and informed clinical opinion shall be used to identify a developmental delay or disability. Early intervention services can take place in the home, in therapeutic settings or in integrated day care programs.
Over the years, the early intervention program has proven to support the healthy development of infants and toddlers with disabilities, and minimizes the potential for developmental delays. If a parent suspects his/her child may have a developmental delay, a pediatrician or primary health care provider should be consulted as soon as possible.
What should I look for in an early intervention program?
Federal laws mandate the following components in early intervention services: identification; evaluation; procedural safeguards; case management; speech, physical and occupational therapies; audiological services; nutrition services; psychological services; social work and transportation services. Some states offer additional services to developmentally disabled children and their families.
If a child is found to have a developmental delay requiring early intervention services, the Service Coordinator works with the family to develop an Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP).
The IFSP includes the infant/toddler's level of development; family resources, priorities and concerns; measurable progress goals, with criteria, procedures and timelines; the specific services necessary to meet the needs of the child and his/her family; projected dates of initiation and duration of services; the name of the service coordinator responsible for implementing the IFSP; steps necessary to help the child transition to preschool or other services.
How do I pay for early intervention services?
Through a federal grant, funds are available to pay for services identified on the child's IFSP, after the IFSP team has determined eligibility for the program and service needs. Also some services can be paid for through Medicaid, if the child is eligible.