Early Intervention

Early Intervention (Ages 0 - 3 years)

This program serves children from birth to three years of age whom are determined to be eligible.  A child is deemed eligible if the evaluation results yield a delay of 25% or more in one or more developmental areas.  A Case Manager or Service Coordinator from a Base Service Unit or County Office of Developmental/Intellectual Disabilities makes referrals for services.

The objective of Early Intervention is to increase the functional and cognitive skills of a child with disabilities leading to greater independence.  Early Intervention services and supports also help parents/caregivers understand the unique needs of their child as well as the strategies and activities that can increase their functional skills and independence in regularly established routines of the family.

Early Intervention services are comprised of services which include but are not limited to: assistive technology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, social work, speech-language pathology and special instruction.  Services and supports are provided by qualified Early Interventionists or therapists representing specific disciplines.

 Following an initial evaluation, done by an independent agency, an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is developed for each child and family.  This plan defines the specific goals and outcomes desired by the family, and the particular services and supports that will be provided to facilitate the achievement of these goals.  Progress towards outcomes indicated in the IFSP is reviewed every three months and changes to services are generally made at that time.

Based on the goals, services and supports defined in the IFSP, individual therapists, teachers and/or other professionals begin working with the child and family.  Services and supports are provided in the natural setting for each child, which is generally in the family’s home or some other community setting.  Intervention sessions usually last about 30 minutes to an hour, and a child may have several sessions in a week by staff from various disciplines.  Sessions will include a variety of activities depending on the needs of the child, which focus on such things as communication, gross and/or fine motor skills, socialization, self-help skills and cognitive skills.  Where it has been identified that specific goals are best achieved in a group or center-based setting, this is also a program option.

Early Intervention (ages 3 - 5 years)

Children from three to five years of age who are experiencing developmental delays and are referred by an Intermediate Unit are eligible to participate in this program.

The objective of Early Intervention services for children from 3 to 5 years of age is to increase the functional and cognitive skills of the child with disabilities leading to greater independence.  These services are also designed to provide for a smooth transition for the child and family into an educational placement at school age.  

Before beginning services the child and his/her parents/caregiver participate in an initial evaluation conducted by professionals from multiple disciplines.  Based on this evaluation an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed for each child. This plan defines the specific goals and outcomes of services that are needed and desired by the family for the individual.  The plan also outlines the particular services that will be provided to facilitate achievement of the family goals.  Progress of the child and the Individualized Education Programs are reviewed annually and changes to services are generally made at that time.

Services are provided in an Easterseals center based preschool classroom or in the natural environment, which could be the home or a community-based early childhood program.  Each classroom follows a regular preschool curriculum adapted to meet the needs of both typical and special needs children. 

 A teacher who is part of a multi-disciplinary team assigned to implement the collective IEPs for the enrolled children directs the classroom-based program.  Working with the teacher and instructional assistants are professionals from a variety of disciplines including such things as occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, vision therapy, hearing therapy, nursing, social work, music therapy and assistive technology.

 Classroom services are generally provided on a “stretch calendar” which includes 180 classroom days provided over the course of 12 months.  Children generally participate in half-day sessions for two to four times each week depending on their individual needs.  Full day sessions are offered as a preferred option for children on the autism spectrum.

Early Intervention Independent Evaluation Services

Individuals served are children between the ages of birth and three years who are referred by a County Office of Developmental/Intellectual Disabilities or Base Service Unit due to identified concerns with developmental functioning.

The objective of the program is to determine, using measurable criteria and within a narrow time frame from referral, the eligibility of a child for Early Intervention services funded by a County Office of Developmental/Intellectual Disabilities.

The Early Intervention system uses a single professional or a team of professionals (who are then not eligible to provide any recommended services) to evaluate the eligibility for services of a child. This is to maintain the integrity of the system and to ensure that only children eligible for services are funded for this program.

Referrals of children who are suspected of being eligible for services are made to Easterseals and an evaluation time is established.  Based on the child’s needs, either a single professional is assigned who can address all developmental areas, or a team is assigned. A team usually consisting of two or more professionals representing education, nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy is assigned to conduct the evaluation.  The team conducts an evaluation using established testing tools to determine the functional skills and developmental levels of the child in all areas, and helps to identify specific family strengths and needs. If a child is determined to be eligible for services, assistance is provided in establishing the type of intervention and development of the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).

Evaluations are conducted at a site requested by the County.  This is usually a family’s home, but might also include some other community setting.

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