In the last part of our series on Early Invention, we discuss the question, “What happens if my child is eligible?” Previously we covered how to refer your child and also learned about what takes place after a referral and during the evaluation process. Here are the next steps.
Once your evaluations are complete you will receive in the mail a written copy of the completed reports. Be sure to read them over carefully and check for mistakes. You want to be sure that your child’s name is correct in the report. If your child has a specific medical diagnosis and it is pertinent to why you referred your child to Early Intervention, you want to check that it is indicated in all of the reports.
Don’t get upset if the reports indicate that your child did or did not accomplish a task that you feel your child typically can or cannot accomplish. Remember that these reports are indicative of a “snapshot” in time. They are not the end all, be all of your child’s level of development.
Also, keep in mind that you have the right to review the reports with a member of the evaluation team and ask any questions or review any concerns. You should receive a phone call from one of the therapists who evaluated your child asking if you would like to review the reports and if you have any questions. Don’t be shy! If there are errors, ask to have them corrected. If you have concerns, voice them. While reviewing your reports, write down any questions that come to mind so that you’re ready when the therapist calls you.
At this time your Service Coordinator will also contact you to set up an appointment for a meeting. This meeting is called an initial IFSP meeting. IFSP stands for Individualized Family Service Plan, and it is just that. It’s a plan for how, where, and how often your child’s services will be delivered and it is built around your family and the particular needs of your child.
The IFSP meeting is typically held at your home, but can also be held at your work or in any other local address that is convenient for you. The Service Coordinator will attend, as well as a representative from the evaluation team who will assist in interpreting your child’s evaluation reports as well as help you establish goals for your child. The child’s parents have the right to invite anyone else to attend, including other family members or friends. You don’t want the meeting to get too crowded however you should consider inviting people who watch or spend a lot of time with your child, such as grandparents or a nanny.
At the meeting the reports will be reviewed and discussed. Use this time to ask any additional questions that may have occurred to you since you last spoke to a member of the evaluation team. The meeting members will also discuss your child’s strengths and weaknesses. They will determine what services your child is eligible for and decide how often your child should receive services. Children can receive services as little as once or twice per month or as frequently as every day of the week, depending upon the severity of the child’s delays or particular diagnosis.
The meeting will also be used to determine where services will take place. Typically services are delivered in the child’s natural environment, such as at home or in a daycare.
Be vocal about what your particular goals are for your child. The evaluation representative and the service coordinator will determine many of the goals, and they are professionals. However if you have a particular goal you would like to see your child achieve, and it isn’t mentioned, don’t be shy about voicing your expectations. Never forget what an integral role you play in this process. You know your child best and are his or hers biggest advocate.
What transpires at the meeting will all be documented in your IFSP plan. It will list for you the frequency and duration of your child’s services, when the services are authorized to begin, where the services will be delivered, as well as each goal that is set for your child. You will be given a copy of the written plan for your records.
Once the meeting is concluded you will begin receiving phone calls from therapists to set up a schedule for services. Early Intervention is a family-centered program, meaning that it is important that services be delivered in accordance with what works best for your child’s schedule. Keep in mind though that the more rigid that schedule is, the more difficult it will be to find therapists who are available. Try to be open-minded.
For example, if you work full time and want to be present for services, think about scheduling only one session per week in the evening and any other sessions during the day with your child’s sitter or in your child’s daycare. It is easier to find a therapist who has one evening appointment available than to find a therapist with 2 or more evening appointments available each week.
Once a mutually agreeable schedule is in place, and your authorized start date arrives, services will begin. Be sure to listen to any suggestions given to you by a therapist. Put into practice any “homework” they may give you in terms of activities and strategies that you can use to help your child’s development. And never be afraid to ask questions! If you are ever dissatisfied or confused about your child’s services, or if you ever have additional concerns, call your service coordinator. He or she is there to continue to guide you through the entire process.
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
By Allison Profeta
Photo Credit Lavinia Marin