Early Intervention Programs

City and State Programs
City and State programs provide free services to families based on a child’s age and needs. Services accessed for children ages birth to 3 years are typically provided by city programs regulated and funded through the State’s Department of Health. These programs are called Early Intervention Programs. Services accessed for children ages 3 years and up are usually regulated through the State’s Board of Education Program. These programs are called,”Committee on PreSchool Special Education Programs (CPSE). All programs though regulated from separate sources, are aimed at assisting children in achieving their developmental goals in becoming school ready. Services may be obtained for free based on separate eligibility requirements for each of the 2 program types, and have the following purposes:
– to assist children with developmental delays in becoming school ready so they do not fall behind in the school system
– to identify early, any conditions or disorders associated with learning
Early Intervention
As mentioned above, Early Intervention Programs are city and state programs regulated and funded by each state’s Department of Health. Every state has an Early Intervention Program available to provide eligible children with services to help children ‘catch up’ in their development. Early Intervention Programs are not typically advertised and are usually referral based with most referrals coming from Pediatricians and other parents. Early Intervention Programs within each State do not necessarily provide the actual services, they only fund and approve them. Early Intervention “Providers” are private or non-profit businesses that actually provide the services and then bill the State or City’s Early Intervention Program. To obtain services for your child you must first contact your State’s Early Intervention Office, to find out which providers are nearest you, and then choose an Early Intervention Provider that best suites your child’s needs. Many EI Providers have their own specialties, for example ‘United Cerebral Palsy, (UCP)”, provides EI services to all children eligible and of course may have many more resources to services for children with Cerebral Palsy. You may call EI Providers and arrange to have a tour of their facilities to check them out before hand before choosing one. If you do so however, you must try not to waste too much time; the enrollment process can take long enough. It is not impossible for a child to go through a long evaluation process just in time to transfer out of the Early Intervention Program. I heard from a parent once that while choosing an Early Intervention Provider and touring their facilities, what helped her make her decision was the greetings she received from the staff. On one of her tours she was greeted by everyone passing by while in the waiting area, even the janitor had stopped to say hello to both her and her two sons. She claimed that this impressed her and that to see a facility where all the staff are both happy to work there and friendly, she knew she had made the right choice.

What types of services can I receive for my child through an Early Intervention Program?

The answer is: as many services that your child is eligible for that are out there. Typically you must have your child tested for eligibility first. Testing would determine your child’s estimated, developmental age for each of the 6 areas of development. From there your child could be eligible to receive services at home, in a classroom or even both, depending on your child’s age and needs. If your child tested as delayed in speech, then your child would be eligible to receive Speech Therapy either at home, one on one with a Speech Therapist, or at a center. A child could be eligible to receive services such as: Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Special Instruction, Vision Therapy, Respite (home care), Daycare, medical, Parent Training, Family counseling, Psychological Play Therapy, and many more of course depending on your child’s and family’s needs.

THE EI Process:
  • 1)You must first choose an Early Intervention Provider. Remember to not waste too much time in doing so; children grow fast and everyday counts.
  • 2)Contact the provider to arrange testing. The provider you chose would first take your information and forward it to the Early Intervention Office in notification. EI will assign an ID number to your child and alert the provider to proceed with testing. This takes approximately 2-3 days.
  • 3)A ‘Service Coordinator’ will be assigned to your child. This person may or may not be from the provider you chose though is there to advocate on your child’s behalf regardless. Your SC will explain to you your rights: that all information you provide is confidential, that these services are voluntary and that you may terminate services at any time, and that you have the right to choose any provider of services that best suites your child’s needs. The SC will wish to meet with you to obtain your signature for some consents and obtain your insurance information. EI plans on billing your insurance company for the services it will approve though you may refuse to provide this info – it is your right to refuse. You may only have to put your refusal in writing if you choose to do so. Typically you will not be billed by your insurance company and if you give this information, it will not affect your deductible. EI would be responsible for any bills you might receive by your insurance since they state that their services are at no cost to families.
  • 4) Choose the place to have testing conducted. Most places allow you to choose to have testing conducted either at your home or at the center. Just know that testing will be conducted with your child by a stranger and if at a center, in an unfamiliar place. Testers understand this and know that your child may not perform typically which is why much of the testing is based on parent input. The tester will basically ask you the parent if your child has certain skills. To get a sample of the skills an evaluator will look to observe based on your child’s age, go to the “Milestones” page of this web site.
  • 5) Test #1: The Developmental Test. The first test should be conducted by a Special Educator and will be a ‘general’ test. In other words, the test will not be specific to the individual areas of development. It will score estimated results of developmental ages in each of the developmental areas. For example, a 2 year old child may only score as a 1 year old in speech, and a 3 year old in physical development – thus having 1 year as the developmental age for speech and being 1 year delayed. Based on the results of this test, eligibility would be determined first to see if your child should need any specific tests. In the previous example, a year delay in speech would then merit the need for a more specific evaluation for your child’s speech. The person that conducts this first test would have at least a Master’s Degree in Special Education. The reason why a general, developmental test to look at all areas is performed first despite possibly that your concern may only be in your child’s speech for example, is that EI wants to be sure that if they are to provide a service, they must first learn that this service is the only service your child needs.
  • 6)Other specific tests would then be conducted depending on the results of the developmental test. These might be a Speech evaluation, a Physical Therapy evaluation, etc. or multiple tests.
  • 7)Eligibility is then determined from the results of testing. Typically your child must have a 33% delay in an area in order to receive services for that area. If your child is 33% delayed in one area already, then your child need only be 25% delayed in another area in order to receive services for that area. The Service Coordinator would be responsible for explaining the results of testing to you and also explain your rights as to what you can now do regarding these results. If you are not happy with the results or disagree, you may request a new test or discuss it at the meeting coming up.
  • 8)Meeting with EI scheduled. Once eligibility has been determined, a meeting will then be scheduled by your Service Coordinator with Early Intervention. This meeting should include an EI Official Designee, at least one member of the evaluation team, your Service Coordinator, and anybody that you feel should be present.
  • 9)The EI Meeting. At this meeting you will discuss what services you would like to receive for your child. An Individualized Family Service Plan will be formed based on the goals you wish your child to receive from Early Intervention Services. At this meeting you may voice your opinion regarding testing results and try to obtain approval for additional services available such as Parent Training, Respite (home or emergency care), or Family Counseling if needed and for example. Your Service Coordinator should be able to prepare you before hand as to what to expect of this meeting and what services you should be eligible to receive. You will determine the type of services that are best for your child – whether you wish to receive services at home or at an EI Center. A frequency of services will be recommended based on the evaluation results and based on the recommendations of the evaluators. A typical frequency for a service such as Speech Therapy for example, would be 30 minutes, 2 or 3 days a week. All services approved at this meeting will be approved in 1 year intervals up until your child turns 3 years of age. Every 6 months your Service Coordinator will wish to meet with at least one of the therapists assigned to your child and review the the goals outlined in the IFSP and your child’s progress. Based on your child’s progress or lack of progress, every 6 months in this review, you may opt to change your service plan to include additional services, additional days, less days, longer sessions, etc. Your Service Coordinator would be responsible for assisting you with any of the changes you would like to make.
  • 10) Services. You may interview and screen the therapists who get assigned to work with your child. If for any reason you feel that a particular therapist is not doing well with your child, you may opt to have a new therapist. Consider however, that therapist’s availability may be limited and there may be a wait for an available therapist. It is also your right to be present during or at least observe all the therapy sessions. Just keep in mind that being present during the sessions may distract your child and render the sessions
    useless. Therapists are required to go over the session with you so make sure you learn what it is they are doing in the sessions. It is important that you learn these things and help carry them over after the therapy sessions so your child benefits most from therapies.


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