What is early intervention?

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. Read more on our blog.

How to get special education services through your local school district.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that all children in the U.S. receive a “free and appropriate public education” in the least restrictive environment possible, provided by their local school district. While the process differs in its details from state to state-and sometimes from school district to school district– the basic framework consists of an initial evaluation, followed by development and ongoing implementation of a “504 plan” or an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). A 504 plan levels the playing field for students with disabilities, while IEPs focus on the provision of individualized, special education and related services.

Evaluation – When a parent or teacher suspects that a child’s difficulties in the classroom are disability-related, they should contact the school’s special education department. If the school district finds reason to suspect a disability and the parents consent to an evaluation, the child’s physical, social, psychological and behavioral development will be assessed. If parents have arranged for any independent evaluations, they should provide those findings to the committee. The parents and committee then jointly determine whether or not the child should receive special education services. If so, an IEP team is assembled to create an instructional plan.

Your Child’s Rights – Schools must notify parents of any plans to evaluate a child or to modify an IEP. Parents have the right to attend all IEP meetings and to request sessions to discuss potential IEP changes. They are entitled to an impartial hearing if they disagree with a course of action proposed by the school district. This is typically the point at which they seek the services of a special needs attorney.