Early Intervention: What Is It and How Do I Refer My Child?

Early Intervention BlocksPerhaps your doctor or a well-intentioned friend or relative recommended Early Intervention for your child. Now that someone has mentioned “Early Intervention” you’re left wondering why and what happens next. We provide the basics on what to expect as well as local resources here on Long Island.

Early Intervention is a federal and state funded program whose aim is to provide, at no charge to families, therapeutic services to children age birth to age 3 who have developmental delays and/or disabilities. Perhaps your child was recently diagnosed or born with a diagnosis such as Down Syndrome and your pediatrician has mentioned Early Intervention to you as a resource for receiving therapy. Or maybe at a play date your friend mentioned that your child isn’t speaking as much or as clearly as the other children and said in passing, “You should get him evaluated. My nephew had a speech delay and received Early Intervention.”

The first thing to keep in mind is don’t panic. Some parents become upset at the mention of Early Intervention, whether they expected it or not. It’s upsetting to think that your child may need therapeutic services, and facing it can be even scarier. However, there are a few things you should know about Early Intervention that might put your mind at ease.

Early Intervention is private. That means that it will never follow your child anywhere without your consent. It cannot become a part of your child’s school record without your consent.

Early Intervention is family-centered. That means that you can withdraw your consent at any time. It also means that should your child qualify for services, the services he/she receives will be scheduled around your family’s schedule and needs and you will play an integral role in your child’s therapy.

Early Intervention is there for you as a valuable resource. Studies show that the earlier a child is treated for developmental delays or disabilities, the greater an impact can be made on the child’s long term development.  Even if your child doesn’t qualify for services (a child has to have a significant delay in one area of development or a slightly milder delay in 2 or more areas of development to qualify for services), the evaluation process is a wonderful opportunity to ask questions of the therapists who are there to assess your child’s development.

What happens if you decide to refer your child? Within a few days after your child is referred to Early Intervention you will be contacted by a person known as a “Service Coordinator.” A Service Coordinator’s role is to guide you and your family through the entire Early Intervention Program. He or she will contact you and set up an appointment to meet you at your home, work, daycare or any other location deemed convenient for you and your child. At your appointment the Service Coordinator will explain the program to you in depth and provide to you literature that explains your rights. You will be asked to sign a consent form to have your child evaluated and will be presented with a comprehensive list of agencies who are available to evaluate your child.

How do you refer your child to Early Intervention? Referring your child is as easy as a phone call. You can call your county directly or call a local Early Intervention agency. Either way, you will be asked to answer a few questions including your name and the name of your child, your child’s date of birth, your full address and contact information, as well as what your particular concerns are for your child. You may also be asked about your child’s birth history, for example if your child was born premature, his or her birth weight, etc.

Below you will find contact information for referring your child to your county’s Early Intervention program:

Nassau County Department of Health, Early Intervention Program: (516) 227-8681
Suffolk County Department of Health, Early Intervention Program: (631) 853-3100

You can also call any local agency contracted to provide Early Intervention.  Below are some examples:

All About Kids – located at 255 Executive Drive, Plainview NY 11803 – (516) 576-2040

Alternatives 4 Children – 4 Suffolk locations including Aquebogue, East Setauket, Melville, and Southampton – referral line (631) 331-6400

Cooper Kids Therapy Associates – located at 2 Roosevelt Ave, Syosset NY 11791 – (516) 496-4460

Infant and Toddler Interventionists – located at 100 North Park Avenue, Rockville Centre NY 11570 – (516) 678-0707

Kidz Therapy Services, PLLC – located at 49 Wireless Blvd, Hauppauge NY 11788 – (631) 382-7311

TheraCare – 1767-22 Veterans Memorial Highway, Islandia NY 11749 – (631) 851-9486

Tune in next month, when we give an in-depth explanation of what to expect during the Early Intervention process.

By Allison Profeta


Photo credit Adrian

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