Qualifying for Early Intervention Services
Recently, a reader inquired on the blog about the specific requirements needed to qualify for services. Her question reads as follows:
"...I need an explanation of what qualifies as a "25%" delay. I typically am not involved in the eligibility process but was recently put in the position. How is the 25% delay determined? Does the child have to score below a certain percentile or be a certain number of standard deviations below?"
Like our reader, I am usually not a key player in the eligibility process. I am not part of an initial evaluation team; however I do assess the children on my caseload prior to their annual review to determine their levels of development and if they indeed continue to qualify for speech and language services. Before responding to this question, I did some additional research to see if what we do here in Delaware County, Pennsylvania is uniform with what is happening across the country and beyond. Here is some of the information I found:
According to the Lancaster County (PA) Early Intervention Web site, a child is eligible for early intervention if they have a 25 percent delay in one or more areas of development.
The 5 primary developmental areas are:
- Physical Development—Ability to move, see, and hear
- Speech and Language Development—Ability to talk, express needs
- Social and emotional development—Ability to relate to others
- Self help (or adaptive skills)—Ability to eat, dress, and take care of themselves
- Cognitive development—Ability to think and learn
On the Wisconsin Birth to 3 Program Web site, the process is further outlined and reads as follows:
- a) A diagnosed physical or mental condition with a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay, based on the early intervention team's informed clinical opinion and supported by a physician's report documenting the condition.
- b) A developmental delay of 25 percent (or 1.3 standard deviation below the mean) in one or more areas of development. This delay is documented from a number of perspectives (i.e., observations in natural environments, testing procedures, review of records, parent report and informed clinical opinion) by a qualified early intervention team that includes the parents.
- c) Atypical development that is based on the informed clinical opinion of the early intervention team. When testing results closely approach but do not demonstrate a delay (25 percent or -1.3 S.D.) and observations indicate that some aspect of the child's development is atypical and adversely affecting the child's overall development, the early intervention team may use alternative procedures to document atypical development and conclude that the child should be considered developmentally delayed.
Washington State also mandates that the child must have a 25 percent delay; however they qualify this as "1.5 standard deviations below his or her age in one or more of the developmental areas. A child may also be eligible if he or she has a physical or mental condition such as Down Syndrome that is known to cause a delay in development". This is different from Wisconsin which equates 25 percent as 1.3 standard deviations. Not a huge difference but it could be the deciding factor for whether or not a child qualifies for services.
Based upon the research and websites I've reviewed, it seems as though the most educated response I can give to our reader(s) regarding eligibility is to FIND OUT WHAT THE SPECIFIC GUIDELINES IN YOUR COUNTY ARE and FOLLOW THEM. Although it appears that the 25 percent delay is standard throughout the US, there seems to also be more detailed instructions and deciding factors that are state and county specific. If you are entering a new position and are part of an evaluation team, make sure you know your facts so that the law in your area is being followed.
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