If you suspect that your child has some developmental delays, some people might suggest Early Intervention. You might also have heard of this program online, among forums and other websites. Early Intervention, or EI, is a service of the government to help address the developmental issues of children. The policies of early intervention vary from state to state, and in New Jersey, there are a few things that you should know if you are considering this program.
The process starts with a Service Coordinator who explains the EI process to the parents or legal guardians. The service coordinator will then be your contact person throughout the entire EI process.
The first activity will be the screening and evaluation of your child to determine if your child indeed has a delay in his or her development. The service coordinator should explain thoroughly what is involved, and will ask for your written consent that you want to proceed with the evaluation.
The evaluation will be carried out by a series of qualified professionals who will screen different areas of the child’s development. This includes his speech and language, hearing and vision, physical skills and other developmental areas.
Depending on the facility, these professionals may screen your child as a group, or individually. They will be talking to your child and ask him or her to do certain things. The professionals will also make use of other methods and techniques to gather information about your child’s development.
Once the results are in, the parents will be informed if the child is eligible for Early Intervention services. The professionals will discuss with you if your child is considered as meeting the criteria of having a developmental delay indicated under your state’s policy.
If your child is considered as having a developmental delay and is eligible for Early Intervention services, you child will then undergo an initial assessment. This is in order to determine the unique situation and needs of your child, and also to determine the EI services that will be most appropriate for your child.
Aside from the initial assessment of the child, the family members will be given an initial assessment as well. The purpose of this assessment is to determine the concerns and priorities of the family. This should be voluntary on the part of each family member.
State Based Early Intervention Services vs. Private Therapy
As mentioned earlier, policies of EI vary between states. Most states provide this service for free. Unfortunately, Early intervention in New Jersey is not free. This is a common misconception of NJ residents that the local government shoulders the entire cost of the program.
As seen in nj.gov:
What are the Costs of the Services?
Federal law requires that specific services be provided to eligible children and families at public expense. These include:
- Child find/referral
- Service coordination
- IFSP development and review
- Procedural safeguards (family rights)
Beyond these required services, a family may have to assume some or all of the costs, depending on the resources available and the parents’ ability to pay.
The points above only include referrals/assessments, but the actual therapy procedure itself will not be paid for by the state. Most families are not aware that private therapy can cost less, and are also better equipped to conduct therapy in a private facility as opposed to therapy done at home.
A challenge that parents face with state provided Early Intervention is that most children “age out” of the different programs. This means that at every step there will be transitions and constant changes in programs, therapists, providers and locations. Most families find this to be difficult and stressful, and prefer to have one therapist to guide and help the family all throughout the child’s development.
A private facility will have all the equipment, tools and a focused environment that will more efficiently provide all the help that the child needs. Since EI is done at home, the child and the therapist are limited only to what the therapists can bring themselves, and is also restricted by the objects and the spatial configuration of the home.
One of the greatest benefits of having therapy in a private clinic as opposed to home therapy is that families can socialize and meet other people in a clinic. This little community acts as a support group that tremendously helps both the parents and the child. Private facilities also have a lot of reading materials and conduct seminars that address developmental issues.