In Texas, children under three years of age who have developmental delays may be eligible for early-intervention services through the Early Childhood Intervention Program. I asked Fran Templeton, a training specialist at the Partners Resource Network in Beaumont, to give us a quick overview of early intervention in Texas and suggest some things parents can do to get started.
Who should a parent contact to ask about early-intervention services?The Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECI) is a statewide program for families with children, birth to three, with disabilities and developmental delays. ECI supports families to help their children reach their potential through developmental services. Services are provided by a variety of local agencies and organizations across Texas. State and federally funded through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, P.L. 108-446), ECI provides evaluations and assessments, at no cost to families, to determine eligibility and need for services. Families and professionals work as a team to plan appropriate services based on the unique needs of the child and family. ECI asks families who can afford to do so, to share in the cost of services. The amount a family pays for ECI services is determined using a sliding fee scale and is based on family size and income after allowable deductions. No child and family will be turned away because of an inability to pay. For more information about ECI or to refer a child, call the DARS Inquiry Line at 1-800-628-5115 or visit the site at www.dars.state.tx.us/ecis/index.shtml. [Download a brochure on cost sharing and a copy of the sliding fee scale.]
What does early intervention look like in Texas?ECI goes to families and focuses on working with the child and family in their natural environment, such as at home, grandma's, or a child-care center. Essentially, it's where children live, learn, and play. Service hours are determined by the Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) and are individualized for each child. [Download a sample IFSP form.]
Do you have any advice for parents about early-intervention services?Parents need to contact the Early Intervention Program as soon as they suspect that their child may have developmental problems and not wait for their doctor or another professional to refer them. There is no cost for evaluations and assessments that will either confirm or allay their suspicions. The earlier problems are identified, the greater the chance of eliminating them and/or decreasing the need for costly special programs later on. When a child is determined to be eligible for services, encourage all the significant people in the child's environment to be involved in the planning and implementation of services. This involvement will help to maximize the benefits to the child and increase the family's feeling of support.
How does the transition between early intervention and special education work?The ECI service coordinator is responsible for assisting the family in the transition from ECI to other community services, including public school. The formal transition process begins when the child turns age two. At this time, the ECI service coordinator and the family will begin to explore possibilities and develop transition strategies that will be part of the child's IFSP. The ECI service coordinator informs the local school district that there is potentially a child with a disability who will turn age three within the next year. All community options are considered on an individual basis for each child, including public school Preschool Programs for Children with Disabilities (PPCD), Head Start, child-care providers, and a variety of local community service providers. If the child will be potentially eligible for PPCD, by federal law, the transition meeting for PPCD occurs from nine to three months before the child's third birthday. These meetings may be held individually or in groups, and the parents may invite anyone they would like to come to the meeting with them. Local school-district staff can explain eligibility criteria, service options, and how an educational plan will be developed for the child. If the child is not eligible for local school district services, the ECI service coordinator will help the parents explore and plan for other options.
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About Partners Resource Network: Partners Resource Network helps parents to understand their child's disability; understand their rights and responsibilities under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act); obtain and evaluate resources and services; and participate as team members with professionals in planning services for their children. Partners Resource Network offers individual assistance over the phone and in-person to families who have questions about their child's needs. Workshops for parents and professionals take place on an ongoing basis throughout Texas. Resources such as printed publications and online materials are available on a variety of relevant topics. Call PRN at the state office at 1-800-866-4726 or by email email@example.com. Regular office hours are Monday - Friday from 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. All of PRN's services are provided at no cost to parents of infants, toddlers, children, and youth with all types of disabilities. Click on the following link to get started: http://www.partnerstx.org.