What is the Early Intervention Program?
First, let’s take a look at the law (IDEA), to see how it is defined. IDEA states that the Early Intervention Program is designed for very young children, ages birth to 3 years old, who qualify based on an existing disability, is diagnosed with a disability, or is considered at risk based on criteria based on the individual states (in the United States). individual state’s health department manages the program based on each state’s eligibility determination formula. To freshen up on the law, please check previous post here.
Is Early Intervention a mandated service?
Parents can opt-into this program and can have access to a range of services based on what is recommended for their child. For example, children and families can have access to social workers, case coordinators, special instructors, speech and language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and other services based on their needs or on their families’ needs. However, this does not mean that if a child is found eligible for the program, the parents MUST accept it. Accepting this program is at the parent’s discretion, and parents must give consent in order to have their child tested for eligibility.
I suspect my 2-year-old child may need some help, what should I do?
You will need to have a referral for the Early Intervention program in your state. In New York, each municipality (region) oversees early intervention within its boundaries. For example, in New York City, each borough, or county, has a regional office dedicated to this program. Referring a child is not as difficult as it may seem. You can refer your child by talking to your pediatrician. If she/he think that a referral is warranted, they will refer your child to a specific municipality. You can also call your state’s department of health. In New York City, for example, parents can refer their child/children to the early intervention program simply by calling 311.
I’m still confused. When should I call the Early Intervention Program?
In a nutshell, if your child is experiencing difficulties in the expected milestones, for example, walking late, not walking, not talking, having difficulty engaging with you and his/her surroundings, and having difficulty engaging with toys, among other things, it is always a good idea to request an evaluation. A group of professionals will come to your home to assess your child’s cognitive, social, motor, language and affective domains. In other words, they will look at how your child plays, relates to you, relates to his surroundings, and communicates, and they will come to a conclusion regarding possible services needed.
It is better to be safe than sorry!
For more information, please drop Dr. Klimek a note.