New York Early Intervention Program
Early intervention services are designed to assist children with developmental delays or disabilities, from birth to 3 years old. Early intervention is federally mandated, but it is administered through the state governments. In New York, the Bureau of Early Intervention is part of the NYS Department of Health. It administers the New York State Early Intervention Program (EIP). EIP was established in Article 25 of the NY Public Health Law. You can read the regulations in their entirety here.
Does My Child Need Early Intervention?
When you first became a parent, you probably went into overdrive researching all the latest parenting techniques, purchasing eco-friendly baby products, and pondering breastfeeding. You almost certainly came across developmental milestone charts that covered when your baby should be able to roll over, crawl, babble, learn his first words, etc. All babies develop at their own pace, so don’t panic if your baby babbles and coos a little later than usual. However, there’s no harm in consulting a professional if your child seems a little off course. An evaluation by a speech-language pathologist (SLP) can let you know if your child might require speech therapy. When you refer your child to early intervention services, he can be evaluated at no cost.
Referring a Child to EIP
Every parent has the right to refer their children to EIP. If a doctor or other professional suspects a possible issue, they may also refer a child. (However, the parent has the right to refuse an evaluation.) In NYS, NYC and all counties are legally required to appoint an early intervention official (EIO). This person is responsible for finding children who need help, facilitating the evaluation, appointing a service coordinator for each family, safeguarding the rights of families, and ensuring the proper delivery of services.
The contact information for your county’s EIO is on this website. You can contact your EIO by mail to refer your child, or you can call 1-800-522-5006. In NYC, call 311. You also have the option of asking your child’s pediatrician to help you with the referral. When you contact the EIO’s office, tell the representative that you would like to refer your child for early intervention services. Share your concerns about your child’s development.
The Initial Service Coordinator
After your child is referred to EIP, the EIO will assign an initial service coordinator to meet with you and your family. She will act just like a guide to walk you through the process and answer all of your questions. During the first meeting with the initial service coordinator, she will discuss your family’s rights, provide you with a hard copy guide to EIP, and discuss the evaluation. You will receive a list of evaluators near you. If you grant permission for it, she will set up an appointment with the evaluators that you choose. She will also arrange transportation to the appointment, if needed. You have the right to request that she accompany your family to the evaluation.
NYS requires that each child be evaluated by a multidisciplinary team of professionals. While a speech therapist will evaluate your child’s speech and language abilities, your child might have other needs, as well. For example, a motor therapist might also be on the team if your child struggles with sitting up. The team will assess your child’s development and determine if his speech disorder or delay qualifies as a disability under NYS law. If your child is eligible, the same team of professionals will develop the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) that covers the range of services your family will receive.
After the Evaluation
If your child is not found eligible for services under the EIP, your initial service coordinator can discuss other services that might help your child. You also have the option to file an appeal. If your child is found to be eligible, the coordinator will walk you through the process of developing an IFSP that suits your entire family’s needs. For more on IFSPs and how to write them, check out this previous post. Also, remember that IFSPs can be reviewed and revised as your family’s needs evolve.