In California, children under three years of age who have developmental delays may be eligible for early-intervention services through the California Early Start Program. I asked Dennise Goldberg, president of Gold Standard Advocates and SpecialEducationAdvisor.com in Chatsworth, to give us a quick overview of early intervention in California and suggest some things parents can do to get started.
Who should a parent contact to ask about early-intervention services?The State of California Department of Developmental Services, via the California Early Start Program, contracts with private nonprofit corporations called Regional Centers for developmental disabilities. There are twenty-one Regional Centers throughout the state. Contact the Regional Center closest to where you live. In California, the Regional Center has the responsibility for the birth to three-year-old population and implementation of the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). [Download the brochure "A Family Introduction to California Early Start."]
What does early intervention look like in California?The California Early Start Program provides early-intervention services for children with disabilities via the Regional Centers. Regional Centers provide evaluation and assessment to determine eligibility and service needs. Early-intervention services will then be determined at an IFSP team meeting based on the unique needs of the child, with input from the parents. IFSP services will be provided, purchased, or arranged through the Regional Center. The Regional Center has a network of vendors it uses to provide services. Many of the services are provided in a natural setting such as the home environment or in a one-on-one clinical setting depending on the child’s needs. IFSP services are provided at no cost to families. Use of private insurance is another payment option, but it is voluntary, requires the family‘s informed consent, and must not require the family to incur a loss of coverage benefits or cost. [Download the booklet "Parents' Rights: An Early Start Resource for Families."]
Do you have any advice for parents about early-intervention services?Raising a child with a disability is a journey that takes knowledge, patience, and support. Part of the California Early Start Program is a partnership with the Family Resource Centers of California, which help provide parent-to-parent support, education, and camaraderie with other parents of children with special needs. I highly encourage all parents to call their local Family Resource Center and start creating their support and learning networks as early as possible.
How does the transition between early intervention and special education work?By the time the child reaches two years and nine months old, the IFSP team must conduct a transition meeting. Typically, this meeting will let the team discuss the child’s transition needs and formulate a transition plan. From this conversation, the school district and the rest of the team should come up with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) assessment plan for the parents to consent to. This meeting is held no later than three months prior to the child’s third birthday in order to give the school district time to come up with an assessment plan (no more than fifteen days); give the parents time to consent to the assessment plan (at least fifteen days); and give the school district time to assess the child in all areas of suspected disability (no more than sixty days from when the parents consent to the assessment plan). When the child reaches three year old, all of the assessments need to be completed, an initial IEP meeting needs to be held, and the IEP needs to be implemented.
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About Dennise Goldberg: Dennise Goldberg is president of Gold Standard Advocates, Inc. and SpecialEducationAdvisor.com. Gold Standard Advocates is a team of paid special-education advocates in Southern California who help parents attain special-education services for children with disabilities from the public school system. While Gold Standard Advocates are not attorneys, they are extremely helpful in IEP meetings to assist in the negotiation process between parents and schools. To contact Gold Standard Advocates, Inc., call 818-993-3011 or fill out our contact form. SpecialEducationAdvisor.com is a community of parents, educators, and special-education service providers dedicated to helping families with special-education-needs children understand their special-education rights and receive appropriate special-education services.