Early Intervention in Pennsylvania - FAQ

What is Early Intervention (EI) in Pennsylvania?
Early intervention in Pennsylvania consists of services and supports designed to help families with children who have developmental delays or disabilities. Early intervention builds upon the natural learning occurring in those first few years. It is a process that promotes collaboration among parents, service providers, and others significantly involved with your child.

Early intervention:
•  Helps children with disabilities develop and learn to their fullest potential
•  Enhances each family’s capacity to meet the developmental needs of their child in the settings where children would be if they did not have a disability
•  Respects the family’s strengths, values, diversity and competencies and answers families’ questions about their child’s development
• Supports communities to become more aware of the gifts and abilities of all its children
• Helps prevent the need for more and costly intervention in the future

 

What are Early Intervention supports and services?
Early intervention supports and services are provided at no cost to families. Early intervention services can include: information about how children develop, parent or caregiver education, family supports, and developmental and instructional therapies that assist in child development.


Early intervention is individualized and provides supports to the child and family in the home and community. Early intervention can also assist families to link to a variety of community services and supports.


You are the expert about your child. The recommendations or suggestions that you have for your child and family are uniquely yours. Sharing them with other members on your early intervention team allows others to know what is important to your family. This information will help your early intervention team to create meaningful individualized services and supports.


Who is eligible for Early Intervention services?
If your child is:
Birth to 3 Years Old:

Infants and Toddlers who have:
•  A 25 percent delay in one or more areas of development
OR
•  A specialist’s determination that there is a delay even though it doesn’t show up on the assessments (called informed clinical opinion)
OR
•  A known physical or mental condition that has a high probability for developmental delays (such as Down syndrome)
 AGE 3 to age of entrance to first grade:
• A 25 percent delay in one or more areas of development
OR
• Any of the following physical or mental disabilities: autism/pervasive developmental disorder: serious emotional disturbance: neurological impairment; deafness/hearing loss; specific learning disability; intellectual disability; multiple disabilities; other health impairment; physical disability; speech impairment or blindness/visual impairment;
AND
• Are in need of special education services.


Through a unique collaboration between the Pennsylvania Departments of Education (PDE) and Department of Human Serivcesthe Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) administers the commonwealth’s early intervention program for eligible infants, toddlers and preschoolers.


At a local level, the infant/toddler early intervention programs administer the services for children from birth to three years of age.


OCDEL contracts services through intermediate units (IUs), school districts, and private agencies for local services to preschoolers from three years of age to the age of beginners (age of entrance into first grade).


Where do I start?
Screening

A screening is a quick and way process, usually just a few questions about your child’s development. The screening helps to determine if an evaluation is needed. You may request a multidisciplinary evaluation at any point during the screening process.


Evaluation
The evaluation will only occur with your written permission. You will be given a consent form to indicate that you understand and agree to the evaluation.


Planning for an evaluation begins with a team; you and your service coordinator or representative from the early intervention program. Other team members may participate as appropriate for your child’s and family’s needs. You are the expert on your child and your participation as a member of the team is very important.


How do I prepare for the evaluation?
• Inform the service coordinator or your early intervention contact person if you need an interpreter or other assistance.
• Be ready to share information that you think is important: current health appraisal, medical records, a baby book, growth chart, or other evaluations or reports.
• Think about your child and any questions or concerns you might have related to his or her development.
• Be prepared to share information about activities that are challenging for your child and family to participate in at home, in the community, and at child care or preschool, as well as what your child and family enjoy doing together.
• Think about where your current support comes from, for example, your extended family, a faith community, your neighborhood, a parent group, etc.


The evaluation will look at all areas of your child’s development. During the evaluation, you and members of the team will talk about the good things your child is doing as well as identify any concerns. The evaluation will also determine the strengths and needs of your child and family.
If your child is determined eligible, the information from the evaluation will help the team know what is important to your family and will help create meaningful individualized services.


What is an IFSP–Individualized Family Service Plan? OR What is an IEP-Individualized Education Program?
An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is a written plan for infants and toddlers. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a plan/program for preschool or school aged children. With your service coordinator or representative from the early intervention program, you help develop the IFSP or IEP. You are an equal partner on the team. As the parent and expert on your child, your knowledge of your child is important to the development of the plan.


Your IFSP/IEP team will meet together and discuss the information gathered from the evaluation about your child’s strengths and needs. The plan meeting is your opportunity to share ideas for your child and family with other members of the team. It is also your opportunity to share information about your daily routines, preferred activities, and activities that are challenging for your family. This information will provide your team with ideas about how to target early intervention supports and services to meet your child’s and family’s needs.

 

An IFSP or IEP must include:
• A statement of your child’s level of development
• With your consent, a statement of the family’s strengths, priorities and concerns as they relate to your child’s development
• Information or assistance to help you access community resources
• Special considerations that relate to vision, hearing, challenging behaviors, communication and needs related to assistive technology or transitions
• The measurable goals or outcomes expected for your child and family, as well as how and when it is hoped they will be achieved
• A description of early intervention services that are to be provided, as well as in what setting they will occur
• A statement of when services are expected to begin and how long they will continue
• The name of your service coordinator or early intervention contact person
• A written plan for transitions as your child’s needs change
• The date when the IFSP or IEP will be reviewed


Where are IFSP or IEP services provided?
Early intervention services must be delivered in settings that are consistent with the needs of your child and family. To the maximum extent appropriate, services and supports are provided in environments, including the home and community settings, in which children without disabilities participate. Early intervention supports and services are embedded in the learning opportunities that exist within your typical routines in the home, community and/or child care/preschool programs. Early intervention services should support the child’s participation in the typical routines of family and community life.


When do early intervention services and supports start?
The IFSP or IEP is the foundation of early intervention services. Early intervention services must start no later than 14 calendar days from the date you agree to the services described on the IFSP or IEP, unless you and the team recommend a later date.


You may request an IFSP or IEP meeting to discuss the potential need for changes at any time by getting in touch with your service coordinator or contact person.


How to prepare for the IFSP or IEP:
• Identify your child’s unique qualities and strengths.
• Think about what you and your family want for your child now, and in one, two, or five years from now or even as an adult.
• Identify the questions you have regarding your child. All questions are important. For example: Why is she so fussy? Why is he so quiet? Is that ok? Is that a concern?
• List what you and your child really enjoy doing such as: playing with water or sand, watching TV, or going for walks. This will help you and the teams identify how you can use these routines to help your child develop and grow.
• Consider the special needs your child has. Think about what your child might need to reach his or her full potential: adaptive equipment, feeding or self-help skills, help to move around, or help to communicate.
• Consider issues for which you would like help in finding the solution. For example, do you as a family like to go to the beach, but you’re concerned about how to take your child?


What does it mean when I am told we must transition?
Transition in early intervention services means movement from one program to another, such as:
• From the hospital to your home
• From an infant/toddler early intervention service to a preschool early intervention service
• From early intervention services to other early care and education settings such as
• Head Start or child care programs
• From preschool early intervention services to kindergarten or first grade


How does my family/team plan for a successful transition?
As a very important part of the team, you need to know all the options—ask questions:
• What is needed for my child?
• What is available?
• Who is involved?
• Where are they?
• When is this transition going to occur?
• How will the transition occur?
• What activities will help my child adjust to the transition?
• How can my family and child be supported through this change?


What happens during an early intervention planning meeting?
If your child is in the county infant/toddler early intervention program, the year before your child’s third birthday, the early intervention program will invite you to a transition meeting to discuss options. The transition meeting should occur 90 days before your child’s third birthday.


If your child is in the preschool early intervention program, during the year before your child is eligible for kindergarten or first grade, the early intervention program will invite you to a transition meeting to discuss options for your child. This transition meeting must occur before the end of February. If your child is kindergarten/school age, the funding for services is the responsibility of the local school district.

 

What does individualized supports and services mean?
 Early Intervention supports and services are individualized for each child and family.
• This means that: The plan developed for each child and family will reflect their unique activities, values, and community participation. Services and supports should match the family’s priorities and concerns, and will vary from family to family, and should change as priorities and concerns change. There are many ways for families to receive services and supports. Location, frequency, or type of service or support is not based on the child’s age or type of disability. The outcomes identified by the family and the child’s team will guide the choices of services and supports necessary to accomplish them. Friends, neighbors, early education practitioners, play groups, churches, libraries, and other community supports enhance the quality of every family’s life. Services using natural routines and activities support and encourage families to find and strengthen natural supports outside the Early Intervention system. These supports, established when the child is young, are likely to remain throughout the child’s school years and into adulthood.
• Early Intervention can be provided at home, in childcare, in private or public preschools, Early Head Start and Head Start, or combinations of these that the family and the team determine are the most appropriate for the child’s progress. Services and supports also change as needed.


What protections does the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) provide for Early Intervention?

In Pennsylvania, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning, Bureau of Early Intervention
Services, administers both Part C and Part B of the federal law IDEA.


Part B
(Section 619 is the Preschool Section) Provides services for eligible young children and their families from age three to the age of beginners (start of first grade). Services are developed by a team and written into an Individualized Education Program (IEP).Services are delivered in the least restrictive environment.


Part C
Provides services for eligible infants and toddlers and their families from birth until the child’s third birthday. Services are developed by a team and written into an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).Services are delivered in a natural environment for the child and family.

 

Part C
Provides services for eligible infants and toddlers and their families from birth until the child’s third birthday. Services are developed by a team and written into an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).Services are delivered in a natural environment for the child and family.


Part B
(Section 619 is the Preschool Section) Provides services for eligible young children and their families from age three to the age of beginners (start of first grade). Services are developed by a team and written into an Individualized Education Program (IEP).Services are delivered in the least restrictive environment.

 

What is the Pennsylvania Act 212: Early Intervention Services System Act of 1990?
PA-Act 212, the state statute for early intervention services, requires the Departments of Education and Public Welfare to ensure that:
• Eligible young children (birth until the age of beginners) and their families receive early intervention services and programs
• Appropriate services under public supervision that are designed to meet the developmental needs of eligible children are available
• Services specifically designed to address the needs of the family to enhance their child’s development are provided

 

What is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)? What are my rights and privileges?
The following information summarizes your rights and privileges under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974(FERPA). This is a federal law which protects the confidentiality of a child’s educational records by limiting their disclosure. FERPA guarantees parents certain rights which are described below.
• Access to records: You have the right to inspect and review your child’s records and to receive a copy of the records.
• Amend information in records: You have the right to request that your child’s early intervention records be changed if they are inaccurate or misleading, and to have a hearing if that request is refused.
• Disclosure of personally identifiable information: Generally, the early intervention program must have written permission from the parent in order to release any information from a child’s educational record. However, FERPA allows early intervention programs to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions:
o Early intervention officials with legitimate educational interest
o Dissemination of directory information (e.g., child’s name, DOB, and parent contact information)
o Other early intervention program to which a child is transferring
o Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes
o Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the early intervention program
o To the courts to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena
o Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies
• Complaints: If you believe that the early intervention program is not complying with FERPA or not guaranteeing you your rights outlined above, you may file a letter of complaint with the federal office in charge of enforcing the Act at the address below:
               Family Policy Compliance Office U.S. Department of Education
               400 Maryland Avenue
               Washington, DC 20202-8520        202-260-3887
• Policy: A complete copy of the FERPA legislation is available at your request. You may receive a copy by contacting your early intervention program or http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

 

What is Parental Consent and Notice (PCN)? What does it meant to me?
• Prior written notice: You have the right to prior written notice before the early intervention program proposes, or refuses, to initiate or change the identification, evaluation, or placement of your child or the provision of early intervention services.
• Parental consent: You must provide consent before any screening, evaluation or assessment; before early intervention services are provided; before public benefits or insurance or private insurance is accessed; and prior to the disclosure of personally identification information.

 

Who has access to a child’s information?
Child information contained in the information management system is kept confidential and only persons authorized by federal and state confidentiality, privacy, and security laws have access to the records. Data in PELICAN ((Pennsylvania’s Enterprise to Link Information for Children Across Networks; the name of OCDEL’s information management system)  is protected by security protocols, which require secure and encrypted servers, unique usernames with strong passwords and user roles that are assigned specific security roles and access. This means that:
• Only the staff directly involved with specific child has access to that child’s information.
• State personnel have limited access to child information for the purposes of monitoring the delivery of early intervention services.
• Information about a child will not be shared outside a program, except as permitted by law with parental consent.


What are Pennsylvania’s Parent Centers? How do I contact them?

These are federally-funded Parent Centers that are available to provide information, resources, and training opportunities to educate families about all aspects of Early Intervention and Special Education (from birth to age 21).


• Parent Education and Advocacy Leadership Center (PEAL) The PEAL Center helps parents with early intervention and education issues in western and central Pennsylvania. PEAL also helps families statewide with access to health care, health insurance, and access to services at home and in the community through the PEAL Family to Family Health Information Center (F2F). The PEAL Center provides individual information, technical assistance and training, including leadership training for families for children with disabilities and special health care needs (CSHCN).  http://www.pealcenter.org/  1-866-950-1040
• Hispanos Unidos para Niños Excepcionales (HUNE) HUNE serves, but is not limited to, Spanish-speaking families across the state.  http://huneinc.org/  215-425-6203

 

What is a Parent Guide?
GBYS Parent Guides are parents of children who are deaf, hard of hearing or deaf blind who have received special training that prepares them to function in this important capacity. This training provides a strong foundation in supporting families without a bias towards communication modes or methods, as well as a functional understanding of formal systems and services available to families and their children. Parent Guides are able to bring their direct experience, specialized knowledge, and personal compassion to their role while making the family’s needs their primary focus. They have been where you are and are willing to listen and share their experience.

 

Who is eligible for the program?
Families of Pennsylvania infants and toddlers (ages birth to 3) who have a hearing loss.

 

What is Hands and Voices Guide by your Side™ of Pennsylvania? What can the GBYS program do for my family?
GBYS Parent Guides located throughout the state provide:
• Timely emotional support at the point of diagnosis of hearing loss
• Direct parent/peer support and networking
• Unbiased information and resource sharing specific to hearing loss, including insights on navigating the systems from a parent perspective
• Support to families throughout the Infant/
Toddler Early Intervention years by combining an experienced parent’s insight with knowledge of Early Intervention and educational systems
• Information about other parent support opportunities

 

How much does the GBYS program cost?
The GBYS program is provided to families at no cost.

 

How do I request a GBYS Parent Guide?
• Complete the GBYS Referral Form on the families page on www.paearlyhearing.org
• Or call the Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side™of PA Program Coordinator at 800-360-7282 x3908(in PA only) or 717-541-4960 x3908
• Or email agaspich@pattan.net

 

Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side™ of PA is supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Guide By Your Side has an office at the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) and shares resources with Early Intervention Technical Assistance (EITA).

 

What is the Early Learning Network (ELN)?
The Early Learning Network (ELN) is an initiative of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL). ELN is a comprehensive unified data system which allows authorized users to assess individual level child outcomes across multiple programs. It links existing data systems by child identifier and will collect additional information on child and family services across program areas. When fully implemented, the data will be used to inform state policy decisions, investments and improvement efforts for early educational programs from birth to third grade.

 

What is the Early Intervention Technical Assistance System (EITA)?
Early Intervention Technical Assistance system (EITA) provides state wide training and technical assistance on behalf of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning, Pennsylvania Departments of Public Welfare and Education. The primary recipient’s of EITA training and technical assistance are the local Infant/Toddler and Preschool Early Intervention agencies that provide supports and services to children birth to school age with developmental disabilities and their families. EITA is part of the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN). EITA is administered through the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit.


EITA provides both statewide and regional training initiatives that are developed through the analysis of statewide data, including program monitoring results, state and federal requirements, relevant research, and planning with state department staff. Statewide professional development trainings are provided across the Commonwealth when it is necessary to ensure a consistent message from the Office of Child Development and Early Learning. Family members are always welcome to attend. Examples of current statewide training initiatives include supporting children with complex needs including medically fragile, positive behavior supports, inclusion, assistive technology, literacy, autism, and parent leadership.


EITA also provides an individualized Technical Assistance Plan developed annually with each Infant/Toddler and Preschool Early Intervention program. The TA plan is based on findings from EI monitoring, self-assessments, OCDEL priorities, relevant research, and locally identified needs. The TA plan is linked to the state performance plan submitted to the United States Office of Special Education. Technical assistance planning is an ongoing process that is the result of conversations, data collection and review, research and clear identification of outcomes. The TA plan focuses on specific programmatic changes or outcomes and includes information on how change will be measured. EITA TA plans focus on providing technical assistance and building local capacity through repeated contacts with the same persons/programs to assist with program wide change. The TA plan is a flexible document that is updated as additional information or needs arise.

 

Acknowledgements:
A Family’s Introduction to Early Intervention in Pennsylvania; Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL)

Early Intervention Supports and Services: Facts for Families; Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) and Pennsylvania Early Intervention

PaTTAN:  http://www.pattan.net/