In the last post, we talked about Early Intervention (EI) services and what to expect. Today, we’ll talk about what happens before and after your child turns 3-years-old.
Remember that IDEA requires that all eligible children birth-21 years of age have access to and receive the services they need (and qualify for). EI covers the birth-3 age range, while school-based services cover 3-21. On the day your child turns 3, he’s no longer eligible for EI. Don’t worry, though. You should have already gone through the transition process prior to their 3rd birthday. Let’s talk about what that looks like.
Transition from EI to Preschool Services
A transition plan will be included as part of your child’s IFSP leading up to his 3rd birthday. (Remember, that’s the document with your child’s goals and treatment plan.) This transition plan basically outlines if and where your child will receive services after his 3rd birthday. There are a few different options for continued therapy after you have a 3-year-old including but not limited to: a state sponsored preschool (usually a part of your local school system), Head Start Programs, or other local preschool facilities in the area. These options would be discussed at the IFSP meeting when discussing transition and the team would decide on the most appropriate option. The transition plan should go into effect no later than 90 days prior to your child’s 3rd birthday.
You will meet with the service coordinator, staff from the potential preschool or program, and possibly your EI therapists. Everyone will discuss their concerns for your child (especially you), and the team will come to a decision whether to pursue continued services and if so, where to pursue them.
Evaluation for Preschool Services
Yes, more evaluations. Most likely, the new preschool program will need to give evaluations based on the areas of concern you have for your child. If you’re concerned about his fine motor skills and language skills, an occupational therapist and a speech therapist may give the evaluations. If you’re concerned about cognition or academics, more comprehensive testing including both informal and formal assessments and parent interviews may be completed. This will usually happen on a separate day as the transition meeting.
Meeting to Discuss Potential Services
You will have another meeting with the same team to review results of the evaluations. If your child qualifies, an Individual Education Plan (IEP) will be created. This will replace the IFSP you had prior to your kiddo’s 3rd birthday. This whole process should take place with time to spare before that all important 3rd birthday, so you may still be receiving EI for a bit longer.
Transition to Preschool Services
Preschool services “begin” on your child’s 3rd birthday. I put that in quotes because you won’t actually have to take your child to therapy on their birthday, but he is eligible to being receiving services then if you wish. Whatever the IEP team decided at your last meeting will be put into place at the agreed upon time. That may include speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, preschool services, or all of the above.
Your child is now in preschool! Can you believe it? From this point on, your child will have the IEP as a legally binding document to ensure your child receives the services he needs. Remember that you are his advocate. It is well within your rights to check in with the preschool to make sure things are being done as promised. On the flip side, it’s the schools responsibility to educate your child as they see fit. And they are the professionals. Trust them to do their job unless you see red flags that suggest you shouldn’t. If you don’t know why something is being done a certain way.. ask!
The IEP will be revisited each year, just as the IFSP was. Hopefully, your child will be meeting the goals outlined in the IEP and new goals will be chosen each year. Every 3 years, your child will be given a re-evaluation to determine what services he is still eligible for. This is a safety measure that has been put in place to ensure children who don’t need continued special education don’t get stuck in that system and fall between the cracks. Your child will continue to get services as long as he qualifies (which will be determined every 3 years).
You aren’t limited to Early Intervention or School based services. However, these are probably the only services that are free. There are all kinds of private services available to you. Your local hospital will most likely provide speech, occupational, and physical therapy services of some sort. In Birmingham, we have a local children’s hospital that provides these services. There may also be smaller clinics or individual therapists that provide services in your area. For Birmingham residents, that could include Mitchell’s Place, Hand in Hand, and… Expressions! It depends on what type of services you’re looking for and how much you can pay. Some of these clinics and therapists may accept insurance, but it’s unknown how much that will cover. Expressions is in the process of becoming a Medicaid provider, which will open up the door to several of you to receive services at a more cost efficient rate.
I hope the last two posts have given you a better understanding of the early intervention and early childhood world. Do you have questions or comments? I would be happy to answer any specific questions if I can. Comment below!