Developmental delay? How to get a child under 3 evaluated

Early Intervention: The first steps for a child younger than 3

Once you decide your child may need help, there are several more steps to take. Here’s a look.

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How to get in touch with your community’s early intervention program

>> What are Early Intervention services, and how can they help your child?

There are several ways to connect with the EI program in your community. Try any of these suggestions:

  • Contact the Pediatrics branch in a local hospital and ask where you should call to find out about early intervention services in your area.
  • Ask your pediatrician for a referral to the local early intervention system.
  • Visit the ECTA Center’s early intervention contacts page here.

What to say to the early intervention contact person

Explain that you are concerned about your child’s development. Say that you think your child may need early intervention services. Explain that you would like to have your child evaluated under Part C of IDEA.

Getting a referral

Write down any information the contact person gives you. You will probably be referred to either your community’s early intervention program or to what is known as Child Find. Child Find operates in every state to identify babies and toddlers who need early intervention services because of developmental delays or disability.



You can use the Special needs provider/agency printable contact sheet to keep track of this important information. In fact, in general, it’s a good idea to write down the names and phone numbers of everyone you talk to as you move through the early intervention process.

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The evaluation and assessment process

Service coordinator

Once connected with either Child Find or your community’s Early Intervention program, you’ll be assigned a service coordinator, who will explain the early intervention process and help you through the next steps in that process. The service coordinator will serve as your single point of contact with the Early Intervention system.

Screening and/or evaluation

One of the first things that will happen is that your child will be evaluated to see if, indeed, he or she has a developmental delay or disability. (In some states, there may be a preliminary step called screening to see if there’s cause to suspect that a baby or toddler has a disability or developmental delay.) The family’s service coordinator will explain what’s involved in the screening and/or evaluation and ask for your permission to proceed. You must provide your written consent before screening and/or evaluation may take place.

The evaluation group will be made up of qualified people who have different areas of training and experience. Together, they know about children’s speech and language skills, physical abilities, hearing and vision, and other important areas of development. They know how to work with children, even very young ones, to discover if a child has a problem or is developing within normal ranges.

Group members may evaluate your child together or individually. As part of the evaluation, the team will observe your child, ask your child to do things, talk to you and your child, and use other methods to gather information. These procedures will help the team find out how your child functions in the five areas of development.

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Exceptions for diagnosed physical or mental conditions

It’s important to note that an evaluation of your child won’t be necessary if he or she is automatically eligible due to a diagnosed physical or mental condition that has a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay. Such conditions include but aren’t limited to chromosomal abnormalities; genetic or congenital disorders; sensory impairments; inborn errors of metabolism; disorders reflecting disturbance of the development of the nervous system; congenital infections; severe attachment disorders; and disorders secondary to exposure to toxic substances, including fetal alcohol syndrome.

Many states have policies that further specify what conditions automatically qualify an infant or toddler for early intervention (e.g., Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome).

Determining eligibility

The results of the evaluation will be used to determine your child’s eligibility for early intervention services. You and a team of professionals will meet and review all of the data, results, and reports. The people on the team will talk with you about whether your child meets the criteria under IDEA and state policy for having a developmental delay, a diagnosed physical or mental condition, or being at risk for having a substantial delay. If so, your child is generally found to be eligible for services.

Initial assessment of the child

With parental consent, indepth assessment must now be conducted to determine your child’s unique needs and the early intervention services appropriate to address those needs. Initial assessment will include reviewing the results of the evaluation, personal observation of your child, and identifying his or her needs in each developmental area.

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Initial assessment of the family

With approval of the family members involved, assessments of family members are also conducted to identify the resources, concerns, and priorities of the family related to enhancing the development of your child. The family-directed assessment is voluntary on the part of each family member participating in the assessment and is based on information gathered through an assessment tool and also through an interview with those family members who elect to participate.

Who pays for all this?

Under IDEA, evaluations and assessments are provided at no cost to parents. They are funded by state and federal monies.

For the next step, see Writing the IFSP for your child with special needs

 



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