If you’re worried that your toddler’s language, cognitive, social, or motor skills are delayed, by federal law (Public Law 99-457 Part C), you are entitled to free evaluation by your state’s early intervention program. These programs provide comprehensive services to children from birth to age 3 and their families.
How can I find my state’s program?
To find the program for your state, search or Google the phrase “early intervention” and your state’s name. Your child’s pediatrician should also be able to give you the contact information for your state’s program. Or you can go to the following website and click on your state to find information for the Part C (Early Intervention) Coordinator for your state http://www.nectac.org/contact/ptccoord.asp?.
How do I get my child evaluated?
In most states parents can make the initial referral, and all it takes is a phone call. You’ll be assigned a service coordinator or case manager who will walk you through the process and coordinate your child’s evaluation from an early intervention specialist (who is usually a licensed physical or occupational therapist, a speech-language pathologist, or an early childhood education teacher, also called developmental interventionist in my state.)
If your child does qualify for therapy through your state’s program, your services will be free or based on a sliding scale according to your income.
Why seek out services?
Typically, children who participate in early intervention experience significant improvement in development and learning. Research tell us that babies and toddlers with delays or conditions likely to cause delays benefit greatly from services during critical developmental years of birth to 3. Services benefit families by teaching parents what they can do to help their children at home. Support is also provided for parents which results in reducing stress. Early intervention services can also decrease the need for costly special education programs later in life by working on problems early in the child’s development.
How does a child qualify for services?
Child eligibility for the program varies by state but can generally be determined in two ways:
- By developmental delay – A child may be eligible for services if an evaluation shows that a child is not developing typically in at least one of five skill areas: cognition, communication, physical/motor, social and emotional , or self-help/adaptive skills.
- Automatic entry – A child may be eligible if he or she receives a diagnosis of physical or mental condition with high probability of resulting developmental delay, such as Down Syndrome.
How are services provided?
Services may be provided in the home, at daycare or preschool, or at a designated center or clinical setting, depending on the needs of the child and family, state requirements, and the availability of services in a given area.