Parents and child care providers can call their state’s Montgomery County PA Early Intervention program if concerned about a child’s development. An evaluation will then be scheduled.
The service coordinator will work with you to develop your child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). Depending on your state’s policies, some services may be charged on a sliding scale, and some might be covered by health insurance or Medicaid.
If your child, from birth to age three, has a developmental delay or disability that impacts his or her growth and development, you may need Early Intervention services. These services include evaluation services; home visits; speech, physical or other therapies; and family counseling. These services are available at no cost to you.
Federal law provides guidelines for eligibility for Early Intervention, but the individual states set the specific criteria. The criteria typically suggest that children must have a developmental delay in one or more areas of their development, such as motor skills, cognitive skills, communication, adaptive behavior or social/emotional development; have a diagnosed condition with a high probability of resulting in developmental delay, such as cerebral palsy or extreme prematurity; or be at risk for developing a delay because of family circumstances (known as informed clinical opinion).
Each State designates which agency will serve as the lead agency for its Early Intervention program. The agency in your State will have a name, phone number and website. The website will also have a list of local offices where you can call to find out more about the Early Intervention program in your area and get an evaluation started. Your child’s doctor can help you contact the lead agency, or you can reach out directly to your local office yourself.
Once your family is enrolled in the program, you will work with your service coordinator to determine the types of services your child needs. These services will be based on the results of your child’s evaluation, as well as the goals and objectives in the IFSP.
The IFSP will be reviewed and updated annually to ensure that your child is progressing toward his or her goals. In addition, you will attend your child’s Initial Individualized Family Service Planning meeting and annual review in person or via teleconference.
After your child is referred to Early Intervention, the program will do an initial assessment or evaluation. This is a process that evaluates your child’s skills in all areas of development, including cognitive, physical, social/emotional, and language. It may also include an interview with family members to identify their resources, concerns and priorities. There are two types of assessments that are used in the evaluation process: norm-referenced and criterion-referenced. Norm-referenced tests compare your child’s scores to the scores of children in similar circumstances, such as age, language or culture. Criterion-referenced tests, on the other hand, measure your child’s ability to perform a task based on a specific standard. The evaluator will determine which type of test is best for your child.
The next step in the assessment process is for a team of professionals to conduct an in-depth evaluation of your child and family. This includes testing, observations and interviews, with your consent. The team will determine whether your child needs help to grow and develop and decide the place, time, type and amount of services that are necessary for your child and family to receive.
Before any evaluation takes place, you will be asked to sign a written consent form and the coordinator facilitator for your local program will discuss with you when and where it will take place and who should be there. If you do not agree with the results of your child’s evaluation or eligibility decision, you have the right to request an independent educational evaluation (IEE). Someone who does not work for the local program will conduct the IEE at no cost to you.
After the evaluation is complete, you will meet with a member of your local early intervention team to review the results. The team will tell you how your child did in each area of development and discuss the findings of the evaluation. They will also share with you their recommendations for your child. Once you agree with the recommendations, the team will write an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) to provide the services your child needs to reach their full potential.
Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)
The IFSP is the heart of your child’s EI program. It is a written plan that records the outcomes you want for your child and lists the early intervention services that are expected to help reach those goals.
The plan is developed with a team of professionals that you choose. This team may include a doctor, social worker, speech-language pathologist (SLP), psychologist or psychiatrist. It can also include teachers, occupational therapists, physical therapists and other professionals who know your child well. You, as the parent, are an important member of this team because you understand your child’s strengths and needs best.
During the IFSP process, you and your family will discuss the findings from your child’s assessment and identify the outcomes you would like to achieve for your child and family. These outcomes are based on your family’s daily activities and routines, so they should be achievable within your family’s real-life environment. The IFSP also identifies the supports that will be put in place to help your child and family reach these outcomes. It’s important to note that your IFSP team will only agree to a service if it is one that you request and have been informed of in advance. This is a requirement by federal law.
After your IFSP is developed, it must be reviewed and revised at least once every six months. You and your family can be part of this review and revision process, and you have the right to bring in a professional independent consultant to help you with this.
Your child’s progress will be tracked and monitored, and as he or she grows and develops, the IFSP will be updated to reflect these changes. As your child nears his or her third birthday, the IFSP will be formed into a transition plan that will prepare for the transition from EI to an IEP, or individualized education program. This will be a collaborative effort between you and your IFSP team, with a special focus on your child’s educational needs. The IFSP will include a statement of your child’s present levels of development, a description of the goals that you and your family have identified, how these goals will be measured, and when the evaluation will be done.
When kids are found eligible for Early Intervention, they will be assigned a service coordinator. The service coordinator will help the parents understand the system and work with them to get the services their child needs. It’s important for families to keep track of the information their service coordinator gives them. You can use the Parent’s Record-Keeping Worksheet to help you with this.
The service coordinator will also discuss transition options. It is required that a family receives an evaluation before their child turns three to determine if they will be moving out of Early Intervention and into preschool special education or other community-based programs. If the CPSE finds that the child does not qualify for special education services, the service coordinator can assist them in finding appropriate community based programs.
If the CPSE finds that the child qualifies for special education, the service coordinator will make a referral to the Local Educational Agency (LEA). The LEA is responsible for providing a free and appropriate public education to children with disabilities. In New York State this is known as the Committee for Preschool Special Education (CPSE). The CPSE will evaluate the child and determine if they are eligible for special education services.
In order to be eligible for special education, the child must have a disability that requires the use of special instruction, aids and devices, or other types of accommodations. The CPSE will then develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). The IFSP will describe the goals and types of services that the child will be provided. The IFSP must be developed and written with input from the family. The family must give consent in writing before the IFSP can be implemented.
The IFSP will also include an evaluation of how well the IFSP is working and what changes are needed. The IFSP will be reviewed and revised at least once per year. It is important that the IFSP reflects the current and accurate needs of the child. It is also important that the IFSP includes progress that has been made and what goals will be set for the future.