Early Intervention Services, Priorities, Assessments, and Transition
Experts in Early Childhood Education agree that detecting and treating a child’s disabilities at the earliest moment reduces and may eliminate future disabilities in a child’s life. This is called early intervention, the priority of which is to provide a wide variety of services to assist the entire family of a child with disabilities. This relieves the stress of the parents, offers therapeutic aid to the child, and may reduce future cost. Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) targets the conditions of newborns through children up to age three and their families. Early intervention is most effective when professionals and the family cooperate in the selection and use of recommended services. There are various types of assessment that lead professionals to recommend services appropriate for the family. Following a successful early intervention program, the ultimate goal is transition to another stage in the care of the child.
Priorities of Early Intervention and Assessment for Developmental Delay or Disability
The chief priorities of early intervention are swift detection and attention, appropriate program planning for services, care of the family, achieving service goals, and successful transition from services. Jarvis of Easter Seals North Georgia describes the aim of early intervention, “The sooner you can start working with a child, the better chance he has of reaching his potential in daily living. By focusing in on a child’s needs early-on in their development, you are giving them the head start they need to keep up with their peers” (Easter Seals Disability Services, 2008, para. 3).
Before services can begin, children suspected of developmental delay or disability must be diagnosed as such. Screening is an early step in determining the presence of a delay or disability. For example, newborns are screened for phenylketonuria and hypothyroidism; early detection can prevent permanent mental retardation through special diet and a thyroid hormone, respectively. Very young children are also screened by pediatricians for delays in development. Diagnosis follows screening if it indicates disability or developmental delays in a child’s motor, cognitive, communication and language, social and emotional, and adaptive development (Heward, 2006). If problems are detected, the child is referred for early intervention services, program planning begins, and service objectives are given. The progress of a child and his program are then regularly evaluated.
Early Intervention Services for Children and Their Families
Families with children with disabilities may obtain many early intervention services through their state health department or other government or private agencies. The New York State Department of Health, for example, offers these typical early intervention services to meet a variety of needs for the entire family, including “family education and counseling, home visits, and 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,