Did you know that eligible children under age three can get early intervention support?
They can, through the Early Intervention Program of Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)!
Understanding how early Intervention is important, how a child receives IDEA Part C Early Intervention services, and what happens when a child receiving Early Intervention support turns three and still needs help.
What is Part C of the IDEA?
Congress established this program in 1986 in recognition of "an urgent and substantial need" to: enhance the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities; reduce educational costs by minimizing the need for special education through early intervention; minimize the likelihood of institutionalization, and maximize independent living; and, enhance the capacity of families to meet their child's needs.
Why is Early Intervention important?
For children with disabilities, or risk of disabilities, providing support as early in life as possible, is key to helping them reach their individual potential. From birth to age three, a child's brain is developing at an incredible rate. During this time, the brain has the highest ability to change and absorb new information. Very young children need appropriate stimulation and support in order to develop in a healthy way. Paying close attention to children's developmental needs at a young age can save unnecessarily costly interventions later, and improve developmental and learning outcomes. It is an investment in the future of a child, and the future of our society.
The good news is that Early Intervention improves outcomes. For example, a large national study ( http://www.sri.com/neils ) found increased motor, social, and cognitive abilities for young children who received Early Intervention services compared to those who did not. This is why ALL caregivers need to understand the early signs that a child is not developing appropriately, and seek help immediately when they have concerns.
How can my child receive IDEA Early Intervention (Part C) services?
The first step in receiving IDEA Part C (Early Intervention) services is a referral to an early intervention agency for evaluation to determine if a child is eligible for services. In Nevada, there are both private and public agencies that provide early intervention services. To begin the early intervention process, contact Nevada Early Intervention ( http://dhhs.nv.gov/Programs/IDEA/Early_Intervention_Programs ) and share concerns regarding your child’s development.
Anyone who is concerned about a child can make a referral (parents, health care providers, neighbors, family members, foster parents, and day care providers). Because important timelines apply, referrals should be made in a way that provides proof of delivery (fax, registered mail, hand delivered).
Once a referral has been made, the early intervention provider must determine whether a full evaluation is appropriate, and let the family know of their decision in writing. It is important to understand that only those who hold Education Rights can consent to any evaluation.
If an evaluation is appropriate, and the child is found eligible for Early Intervention services, an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) will be created with the family and service provider(s). An IFSP outlines the child's strengths and developmental needs, the family's concerns and priorities, and the Early Intervention services that will be provided to the child and the family. At every point, families have a right to challenge any decision and will receive information about how to do that in the form of a special notice of "procedural safeguards."
Eligible children receive services, evaluations, and service coordination at no cost to the family.
What happens when my child turns three?
Preparing ahead of time is crucial for a smooth transition to needed supports by the time your child turns three and IDEA Part C services stop. Once your child reaches the age of two, the discussion of transition to Early Childhood programs begins with your child's Early Intervention Service Coordinator.
Some children will not need continuing support, but this decision must be made after a comprehensive assessment of progress and development is completed by the local school district. The service coordinator will reach out to your child's school district to arrange a transition meeting to discuss any evaluations that may be needed, and to share important information about your child.
The school district will request permission to conduct evaluations. These evaluations must be completed before your child turns three. You will be part of an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) team that must meet to see if your child is eligible for specialized support ("Special Education") for students age three through 22. This is called IDEA Part B. If your child is found eligible for Part B, an IEP will be developed to support your child. Specialized support and instruction will then be provided through your child's school district. IEP supports must be in place by age three to ensure that there were no gaps in services provided to your child, if eligibility for continued special education services was established.
For More Information
For more information on Early Intervention (Part C of IDEA) and how to access services for your child, call your local Parent Training and Information Center (PTI). Nevada PEP is Nevada’s statewide Parent Training and Information Center.
Statewide/Nationwide Toll Free number for contacting Nevada Early Intervention: Project ASSIST at 1-800-522-0066