In New Hampshire, children under three years of age who have developmental delays may be eligible for early-intervention services through the state's Family Centered Early Supports and Services (FCESS), a program administered by the Division of Health and Human Services (DHHS). These five steps can help you find out about how early intervention works in New Hampshire and get your child started with needed services and supports.
1. Consult with your pediatrician. According to the Eligibility Categories on the DHHS site, your child will need to have at least a 33 percent delay in physical, cognitive, communication, social, emotional, and/or adaptive development; or be found to have an established condition, atypical behavior, or other risk for a developmental delay. Your child's doctor should be knowledgeable about these requirements and able to make the referral to FCESS 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 FCESS to request help for your child, if your doctor or another professional has not done this for you. The phone number is (800) 852-3345, ext. 5036 or ext. 5122, and the staff member who answers should be able to get you started in applying to the program or answer any questions you our your family members may have about it. Alternatively, you can contact the FCESS Intake Coordinator in your area. You might also reach out to the office of the Parent Information Center on Special Education to talk to a parent educator about what you need to know to successfully advocate for your child, in early intervention and beyond.
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 New Hampshire, read "IFSP Development" and "Know Your Rights," downloadable from the DHHS site, and "Family Centered Early Supports and Services: A Guide for Families," downloadable from the Parent Information Center on Special Education site.
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 Parent Information Center on Special Education, services provided in the IFSP may include service coordination, assistive technology, audiology services, family counseling, health services, nursing services, nutrition services, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, social work services, and vision 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 program directory downloadable from the DHHS 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.