Early intervention refers to therapeutic, educational and medical services provided to children from birth to 3 years of age. Early intervention is intended for children who are identified as having or being at-risk of developing a disability. Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, is the Federal law that provides funding for states to offer services for early intervention.
Early Intervention Services
Early Intervention incorporates many different services that infants and toddlers with disabilities need in order to reach their potential. These services may include speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, educational services and transportation that allows families to access service locations.
Each child must receive extensive evaluation for developmental delays. These assessments are scheduled and monitored by a service coordinator. The service coordinator may be involved in the actual assessment or she may simply schedule other professionals to assist in this process. The results of the evaluation help the IFSP team identify the areas for which services are needed.
The core philosophy of early intervention is the provision of services in the child’s natural environment. This means that various therapeutic services take place in the child’s home, daycare, or in neighborhood facilities whenever possible. Coordination of these services requires planning, scheduling and helping families access the services.
The primary duties of the early intervention service coordinator are to plan, organize and oversee the implementation of early intervention services needed by families. In addition, the coordinator must maintain the required paperwork for early intervention clients. The coordinator then monitors and evaluates the services provided and adjusts them according to families’ needs.
IDEA requires the development of an IFSP or Individualized Family Service Plan for each early intervention client. A team of professionals works with the family to determine which services are needed for the child. Goals are developed for each service area. The IFSP is the binding contract between the service professionals and the client family that outlines the services and goals for the child. The IFSP states specifically the dates on which the services will begin, how often the services will be provided, and which professionals are responsible for each service.
The early intervention service coordinator is responsible for monitoring the services provided to the client family. This may involve communication with the family and service professionals, gathering data concerning the child’s progress, and troubleshooting scheduling for the family and professionals. As services are implemented, the service coordinator may need to make changes to the IFSP with the assistance of the team and family in order to best meet the needs of the child. The monitoring process includes ongoing evaluation of services and the progress of the individual child.