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Early Intervention Evaluations: What to Expect

March 4th, 2014

Under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, states receive funds to make early intervention services available to infants and toddlers with disabilities under the age of three years and their families.  To be eligible for services, children must be less than 3 years of age and have a confirmed disability or established developmental delay, as defined by the State, in one or more of the following areas of development: physical, cognitive, communication, social-emotional, and/or adaptive

Early intervention services include a variety of therapeutic and support services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. In New York State, the Early Intervention Program (EIP) has an Early Intervention Official (EIO) for each municipality and county. Children who are showing signs of possible developmental difficulties may be referred to the EIO by teachers or other professionals, unless the parent objects. Parents may also contact the EIO directly. In order for a child to have access to EIP services, parents will then meet with an initial service coordinator to set up an evaluation that will determine the child’s eligibility.

Evaluation Process

Parents will be given a list of evaluators. Every child has the right to a multidisciplinary evaluation, which means that more than one type of professional will take part in the evaluation. Typically, the evaluators will include a professional who will examine the child’s overall development, and a professional with specialized knowledge about the area where the child is having difficulty. The evaluation team may include a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, or a physical therapist.

Once you find an evaluator, the evaluation typically takes place in the home, where the team will evaluate the child’s development and speak to the parents. Areas of development including motor skills, sensory, social, emotional and cognitive development are evaluated. If there is significant delay in two or more of these areas, then the child may be eligible for the program. The team will usually make a determination by the end of the evaluation.

Details of how the evaluation will be conducted depend on each child’s particular circumstances. The initial service coordinator and the evaluation team can answer any questions parents may have, before, during and after the evaluation.

Team will Develop IFSP if Child is Eligible for Services

If your child is found eligible for services, a team will develop an “Individualized Family Service Plan.”  (“IFSP”) The IFSP represents the main document to provide services to a child with a disability under Part C of the IDEA   The IFSP is analogous to an Individualized Education Program for school age children and provides a written plan for providing early intervention  services to an infant or toddler with a disability.

Choosing a Service Provider

Effective January 1, 2013, New York effected a major change to its EIP.   This change prohibits families from receiving services from the same center that initially evaluated them.  The State enacted the change to prevent a conflict of interest in which therapy centers could benefit from recommending unnecessary treatments.  However, advocates and parents may worry that the change will make it harder for families to find an appropriate service provider.  Waivers to this rule are available; however the EI Service Coordinator must submit a Waiver Request form to the NY State Bureau of Early Intervention (BEI) documenting that the child requires direct EI services from the same evaluator/evaluation agency due to “special circumstances related to the evaluator’s qualifications, availability, or other extraordinary circumstances in which there is a clear showing that the child will not be able to access needed services absent such authorization.”

Choosing Service Providers

Both Part B and Part C of IDEA require that agencies develop a transition process to ensure that when a child becomes eligible for Part B services at age 3, an educational program is in place.  Under Part C, the lead agency must establish a transition plan in the IFSP not fewer than 90 days before the child’s third birthday.   The lead agency must still ensure that such children receive a smooth transition from early intervention services to preschool, kindergarten, or elementary school. In addition, a transition plan must be established in the IFSP not fewer than 90 days before such a child is no longer eligible to receive, or no longer receives, continuing early intervention  services.

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