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Early Intervention Aids Children with Developmental Disabilities

November 14th, 2012

Developmental disabilities and delays in children used to be largely ignored before the age of five. Today, it is widely understood that important learning milestones occur well before then, and early therapy can do a great deal to help children.

In 1986, Congress established the Early Intervention (EI) program as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). EI provides a variety of services for children from birth to the age of three to help with their mental, physical, emotional and social development. While not federally mandated, EI is implemented in all 50 states due to strong federal financial incentives.

When parents suspect their child may not be developing properly, a pediatrician can prescribe a full evaluation of the child’s faculties. If tests indicate that the child’s development is not optimal, the family meets with professionals to develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). At subsequent annual or biannual meetings, the child’s progress is assessed and the plan is modified as necessary.

Here are some examples of services provided through EI:

Occupational therapy assists in the development of self-help skills, adaptive behavior, and sensory and motor development.

Psychological services include conducting and interpreting psychological tests and planning counseling programs.

Family training assists parents in understanding their children’s unique needs and promoting their development.

Audiology and vision services identify and help correct sensory disorders and mitigate their effect on learning abilities.

Fifty years ago, a developmental problem, left untreated, might have destined a child to be institutionalized, whereas today, early intervention can help that same child integrate well with children their age by the time they reach grade school.

If you suspect your child may have a developmental disability or delay, talk to you pediatrician about testing and the EI program. If you disagree with your doctor’s opinion or the results of your child’s EI evaluation, and believe your child needs EI services, you may want to talk to a special needs advocacy lawyer.

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