In Nebraska, children under three years of age who have developmental delays may be eligible for early-intervention services through the state's Early Development Network (EDN). The program is administered by the Nebraska State Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services. These five steps can help you find out about how early intervention works in Nebraska and get your child started with needed services and supports.
1. Consult with your pediatrician. To be eligible for early intervention in Nebraska, according to the EDN site, your child will need to have "a suspected significant level of delay in one or more developmental area(s): cognitive, adaptive, communication, social/emotional, and/or physical (including vision, hearing); or a diagnosed physical or mental condition that has a high probability of resulting in a significant developmental delay." For more on the guidelines, read "Verification Guidelines for Children With Disabilities" and view videos on specific disabilities, all available on the EDN site. Your doctor should be knowledgeable about these requirements and able to make the referral to EDN or give you the information necessary to do so. The importance of early intervention and the availability of these services is a good reason to urge your doctor to move past the "wait and see" phase and toward an identification of problems and needed therapies.
2. Call the Early Development Network to request help for your child, if your doctor or another professional has not done this for you. The phone number is 1-888-806-6287, and the staff member who answers should be able to get you started in applying to the program or answer any questions you or your family members may have about it. You can also contact an EDN office in your area, using the map on the EDN site. The process of identifying children for early intervention and special education in Nebraska is called Child Find, and you can read more about the process and opportunities on the Nebraska Child Find website.
3. Your child will be evaluated by a team including speech, physical, and occupational therapists to develop an Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP) that determines the services your child will receive and where they will be delivered. Your goals and wishes should also be considered in the development of the plan, and you may be asked to fill out forms or attend interviews. To educate yourself about the IFSP process and what it involves in Nebraska, read "A Family's Guide to Early Intervention Services in Nebraska" from the Nebraska Library Commission site; visit IFSP Web, an interactive site for parents from Answers4Families and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services; view "Babies Can't Wait," a video on the EDN site that walks you through the complete early-intervention process; and "The Early Intervention/IFSP Process" from the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center.
4. When you receive the IFSP, review it to make sure you agree with the services specified and the site at which they will be delivered. Your consent is required before the services can be delivered, and you have a right to turn down anything you disagree with or back out of the program altogether. According to the Answers4Families site, services provided in the IFSP may include family training, counseling and home visits; special instruction; speech therapy; physical therapy; occupational therapy; psychological services; case-management services; and health services. Therapies should be provided in a natural setting, which may include your home or a day-care center your child attends. Ask questions and make sure you understand everything mentioned in the IFSP before giving your consent.
5. Service providers will be assigned to your child, and you can find out more about them through the Nebraska Resource and Referral System linked to from the EDN site. Collaborate with the therapists who will be working with your child, sharing insights from your experience and asking for suggestions on how you can continue the work your child is doing at home between sessions. You may also want to get involved with PTI Nebraska, a parent-training organization that provides workshops and guidance that can help you advocate for your child with special needs now and in the years to come.