Many parents do not realize the following:
1. They can receive a free assessment for their infant or toddler to determine if he or she has a developmental delay or disability; and
2. Early intervention services are available, usually FREE OF COST*, to help any infant or toddler who is determined to have one.
GIVE YOUR CHILD A HEAD START!
Unfortunately, many parents either act too slowly to get their child assessed, or simply don’t find out about these programs until their child is nearly entering school. This is a disappointing loss. Children with developmental delays need EARLY intervention, that is, they need to start educational programs before other children do. Imagine an educational “race track” where children move along and progress. If your child is somewhat slower on the track due to a disability, he or she needs to start the “race” earlier.
The period of time from birth to age three are crucial developmental years where your child learns language, motor skills, etc. Take advantage of the educational opportunities that are available to your child during these years, and don’t wait.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, called IDEA, was signed into law by President Bush in December of 2004. This act mandates that if your child is determined to have a delay in any of the following areas:
1. Motor Skills (Your child’s ability to physically move)
2. Communication Skills (Speech and Language)
3. Ability to learn (Cognitive Development)
4. Social or Emotional Development (How he relates to others)
5. Adaptive Functioning (Life skills such as dressing himself)
then a service coordinator will be appointed to the family to help that family receive whatever resources are available in their community to help them.
HOW TO GET THE PROCESS STARTED
Visit the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) website at www.nichcy.org. Log on to the state resources fact sheet for your state and find “Programs for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities.” Make some phone calls and get the ball rolling. Don’t delay!
According to IDEA, you are legally entitled to the following:
1. A free, thorough assessment for your child;
2. A family assessment to determine the family’s needs and what local resources are available; and
3. An individualized family service plan (IFSP) written by a team of professionals and you, outlining your child’s needs, your family’s needs, and the strategy for meeting these needs through local resources.
Be your child’s advocate and make sure he or she receives every possible opportunity available.
*Depending on state regulations, some programs may have a cost to parents, based on a sliding scale, according to income.