The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that protects children age 0-21 with disabilities and provides that they are guaranteed a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). The purpose is to protect students and guarantee that they are educated in their least restrictive environment. Under Part C, this means the natural environment, including the home, daycare setting, playground, or wherever the child would naturally be in their daily routines. Parents are also included in every decision made about their child.
Part C of IDEA governs Early Intervention. Early Intervention Is a range of services aimed to help kids, age birth-3 years, who have a noticeable delay in any of the 6 areas assessed, these areas are, physical, social-emotional, speech and language, cognitive, fine motor, and adaptive development. Early intervention services can also be afforded to a child who has a qualifying medical condition such as Downs Syndrome or a genetic condition. There are other reasons such as being born to a mother who is under 15 that will qualify a child for Early Intervention services. [http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/partc/ ] Even though it is federally mandated, each state has its own rules for which children are eligible and how children are found. In Illinois, children can be referred to Early Intervention by their parents or their doctor and sometimes even by the hospital where they are born in the cases of qualifying medical diagnoses.
Does my child qualify?
In order to find out if your child qualifies for EI, you should call your local childfind office. This will start the evaluation process. http://ectacenter.org/contact/ptccoord.asp Once you make that initial call, a Service coordinator will start the intake process which consists of taking down all of your concerns and demographics. Then she will find an initial evaluator team which will consist of a Speech and Language pathologist, a Developmental therapist, a Physical therapist, and an Occupational therapist. This initial evaluation is free, as is the Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) meeting. You are always a participant in your child’s evaluation and IFSP meetings, as the parents you know your child the best. At the initial evaluation, the team members will play with your child and ask you questions about their daily routines and any concerns you have. While they are doing this, they will be assisting how your child functions using their assessment tools. At the meeting, they will tell you how your child functions compared to their same aged peers. If you child is determined to have a qualifying delay, or your child has a qualifying medical diagnosis, or you (as the parent) suffer from a mental illness or are under the age of 15, your child will qualify for the Early Intervention program.
Qualifying for EI
What does it mean to qualify for Early Intervention? We will go in to what each team member does at a later date. When you qualify, your therapy team will either work with your child in their natural environment (such as your home, a daycare or a relative’s home) or they will work with your child in a therapy center (which could be at the referring hospital). They will work on a variety of skills like learning to use expressive language to make requests. It could mean learning to walk to be able to functionally move or even to learn to play. There are many ways Early Intervention can help your baby and toddler and the sooner you start, the farther they can go!
-Written by Stacy Hillenburg (parent of transplant recipient and Early Intervention Specialist)