In New Mexico, children under three years of age who have developmental delays may be eligible for early-intervention services through the state's Family Infant Toddler (FIT) Program. The program is administered by the Developmental Disabilities Supports Division (DDSD) of the state's Department of Health. These five steps can help you find out about how early intervention works in New Mexico and get your child started with needed services and supports.
1. Consult with your pediatrician. To be eligible for early intervention in New Mexico, your child will need to have at least a 25 percent delay in development in at least one area or an established condition or risk factor that makes such a delay likely. Your doctor should be knowledgeable about these requirements and able to make the referral to FIT 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. You can make a referral to FIT yourself, if your doctor or another professional has not done this for you. The program has a brochure on how to make a referral and an online referral form. You can also look at the program's provider list and contact one in your area, or call BabyNet at 1-800-552-8195 for personal help in applying to the program or answers to any questions you our your family members may have about it. You might also contact the parent-support organization Parents Reaching Out to talk 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 Mexico, read "A Guide to Early Intervention in New Mexico," a booklet downloadable from the DDSD site; a sample IFSP form, also from the DDSD site; First Steps fact sheets from Parents Reaching Out; 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 FIT family handbook, services provided in the IFSP may include assistive technology, audiology, developmental instruction, family therapy, counseling and training, health services, medical services, nursing services, nutrition services, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychological services, respite, social work, transportation, 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 provider list on the DDSD 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.