Loud and Clear: A Special Needs Conversation

Early Intervention Can Change a Life

By Robert F. Brogan, CELA

At one time, it was common for neurologists to wait until a child was about five to broach the topic of developmental delays with parents. Since children learn fastest during their early years, that meant that valuable time was lost, during which therapy might have reduced or reversed physical and cognitive problems. Acquiring language and motor skills becomes increasingly difficult as a child matures.

For that reason, in 1986, as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Congress established Early Intervention (EI). EI provides a broad array of services for children under three years of age, intended to facilitate their physical, cognitive, emotional and social development.

IDEA requires that children suspected of having delays receive a “timely, comprehensive, multidisciplinary evaluation” to determine their eligibility for speech and occupational therapy, psychological, vision and audiology services, and more. In most cases, there is little or no charge to the family.

I suggest that parents concerned about the rate of their child’s development ask their pediatrician to write a prescription for a full speech-language pathology evaluation, physical therapy evaluation and occupational therapy evaluation.

If those assessments indicate that a child is eligible for EI, the family and a team of professionals will jointly develop an “Individualized Family Service Plan,” which may include training and counseling for the parents and siblings. It’s important to understand that family members will play a central role in the child’s development, since they must actively reinforce the work of therapists. To the extent possible, services to the child should be delivered at home or in other settings in which the child typically spends time.

The concept of “individualized” is key. For example, I’m aware of cases in which children were intellectually capable of communication but lacked the muscle control to speak “on schedule.” They were “trapped” by their physical disability and would act out due to intense frustration. Teaching them sign language, though, enabled them to communicate while their bodies caught up.

Such is the power of early intervention, since 50 years ago, such children would have been institutionalized. That’s why it’s so important for parents to aggressively pursue the services which may be appropriate for their children. If you sincerely disagree with an evaluation and believe that your child could benefit from EI, it may be worthwhile to take legal action. While such a course can be lengthy and difficult, the more severe your child’s delays, the more you have to gain from advocacy. After all, EI can change the course of a child’s life.

Posted: October 12th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Early Intervention Can Change a Life”

  1. It is unfortunate that many parents and grandparents need to watch kids with reading problems go undiagnosed or, worse yet, misdiagnosed. I was fortunate enough to stumble across developmental ophthalmology and my son and daughter-in-law had their daughter tested following several years of one on one tutoring for a reading deficiency. She has been found to have eye developmental problems and now at age 9 is finally in therapy, which of course is not covered by their private insurance. We are fortunate that we can afford the cost of the therapy, many are not. This is a field which should be expanded and for kids not reading at grade level, should be a mandatory testing. Just saying.

  2. Justina says:

    Pennsylvania…..A shared custody 50/50 order was made in 2010 with no primary parent listed when child was 5mths. At the age of 7mths child was diagnosed with developmental delays and since then with apraxia of speech. During my week of custody my son receives speech therapy, occupatiional therapy, physical therapy and since recently turning 3 , has an IEP, and is enrolled in the intermediate special education classroom and soon begins preschool. Father refuses to acknowledge our sons special needs (even after 4 expert reports,2 years of early intervention paperwork i have them send him and mediation) and has not been involved with anything pertaining to his educational or special needs nor did he sign the iep. He refuses to allow child to have these services during his week as well as attempts to change his pcp doctor etc. A modification is needed in order to meet childs needs and schedule. We do not communicate and when I try, I am told by him to contact his lawyer. He does not work and had his support paid actually dropped due to having hotchkinsons disease lymphnopha and currently not able to care for himself. How is he then able to take care of childs basic needs let alone special needs which he’s ignored up until now? How is refusing child these not child neglect, educational as well as emotional neglect? How does a Judge from York County court consider fathers parenting time more important than our child’s special needs and why won’t anybody help without requiring a $2000 retainer fee!? In the meantime, cys, legal aid, terrific attorneys that I cannot afford to pay one lump sum while pediatricians and experts state how this needs to be changed and yet can’t help the change be made which requires a day in court if it goes beyond conciliation.
    I’m asking if anyone can advise me or represent my modification as pro bono or deduct a retainer fee, etc in order for my son to have what he is legally entitled to which is to have the same oppurtunites in life as any other child!
    . This has become an emergency matter.
    Please help me help my son!
    With regards, Justina

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