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The birth of a new baby is exciting! You dream of a future filled with unlimited possibilities. But what happens if your new baby has a disability? What if your infant or toddler has special healthcare needs? What help is available?
Early intervention provides special services and programs for children from birth to age 3 who have:
The Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities is made available through a federal education law known as Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The Center for Infants and Children with Special Needs at Cincinnati Children's provides resources to help families find the special education programs and supports they need.
If you or your healthcare provider are concerned about your child's development, an assessment and comprehensive evaluation will be conducted to determine if your infant or toddler is eligible for early intervention services. This is done within 45 days of the referral and at no cost to the family. Each state has one agency, sometimes called the lead agency, that is in charge of the early intervention system:
After the initial assessment and evaluation, it may be determined that your child is eligible and in need of early intervention services. An Individualized Family Service Plan, sometimes called an IFSP, is developed with input from a multidisciplinary team including the family and healthcare providers. The Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is a written plan that identifies major goals and specific services necessary to meet the unique needs of the child and family. This dual focus, on both the family and the child, shows the importance of the family in supporting a young child's development. Early intervention services can include:
Early intervention services may be delivered in a variety of settings, such as the child's home, public or private agencies, a community provider, a clinic, daycare, hospital or local health department. To the maximum extent appropriate, services are provided in natural environments. Natural environments are where the child lives, learns and plays.
In Ohio, early intervention services are free. Some states may have a sliding-scale fee for services. Contact your state coordinator overseeing the implementation of early intervention programs to check on your state's policies. However, services cannot be denied to a child just because the family is not able to pay for them.
A plan must be developed to ensure a smooth transition from early intervention services to preschool services at age 3. Your family, staff from the early intervention program and your local school district must meet at least 90 days or up to 6 months before your child is eligible for preschool services. In Ohio, this process usually begins 6 months before your child turns 3 years of age. Your school district is required to attend the transition meeting, however, 120 days prior to your child's third birthday.
Your local school district will conduct a comprehensive evaluation to see if your child qualifies for preschool special education services. A child who was eligible for early intervention may not continue to qualify for preschool services, depending on the nature and severity of the disability and the educational needs.
Find additional information about special education services for children ages 3 through 21, guaranteed through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
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