BY NATHAN DUKE
New York State offers a variety of therapeutic and support services to eligible infants and young children with disabilities and their families, according to the state’s Department of Health.
In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act went into effect after being passed by Congress and, in 1990, it was reauthorized as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The goal of the bill was to provide children with disabilities with the same opportunities as other children.
In New York, these services are administered by the Department of Health through the Early Intervention Program (EIP), which has been in effect since 1993.
To be eligible for early intervention services, children must be under 3 years of age and have a confirmed disability or established developmental delay in one or more of the following areas: physical, cognitive, communication, social-emotional or adaptive.
Some of the various issues that could qualify a child for early intervention services include a developmental delay that would cause a child to be far behind other children of the same age or specific health conditions, such as genetic disorders, birth defects or hearing loss.
Some warning signs that your child might have a communication delay or disorder are if they do not babble by nine months, cannot speak any words by 15 months, do not use consistent words by 18 months or use any word combinations by 24 months. Other signs include a lack of interest in communicating and slowed or stagnant speech development.
Signs that your child might have hearing problems include a failure to respond normally when spoken to or a lack of response to loud noises.
Lastly, symptoms that could also foreshadow a development disability include problems with chewing or swallowing, stuttering, excessive drooling or poor memory skills by the time your child reaches age 5 or 6.
While early intervention services are typically available for children up to age 3, older children are often eligible for further special education services under IDEA. A few months prior to your child’s third birthday, you should discuss a transition with the early intervention team with which you have been working. If your child is already 3 years old, you could still receive services—but you would first have to get an evaluation.
There are a number of early intervention services offered for children with special needs in New York. Therapeutic and support services that are available include family education and counseling, home visits, parent support groups, special instruction, speech pathology and audiology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychological services, service coordination, nursing services, nutrition services, social work services, vision services and assistive technology devices.
To apply for any of these services, contact your county’s local early intervention program. For information about the statewide program, call the Department of Health’s Bureau of Early Intervention at (518) 473-7016 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach editor-in-chief Nathan Duke via email at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 357-7400, ext. 122.