For Children Ages Birth to Three
Many parents will be surprised to learn that local school districts are involved in providing services to children who are far too young to enroll in school. IDEA says that all states must provide educational services for children who have disabilities. Educational services are delivered through early intervention programs and local school districts. Minnesota law requires that all educationally-necessary services must be provided at no cost to families. Early intervention services may also include health or social services from other agencies and these services may have fees attached to them.
In this section you may come across new terms that you may not be familiar with. Be sure to ask questions of the professionals you work with so you can understand the information and the decisions you will be asked to make.
What are Early Intervention Services?
Early intervention services are programs or services designed to identify and serve developmental needs as early as possible (Families Are Important, PACER, 2014). Examples of services include family training and counseling, audiology services, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychological services, vision services, and assistive technology services. The specific types of services a family receives will depend upon the needs of the child and family.
How Does a Family Go About Receiving These Services?
The process of receiving services for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, ages newborn to age three, typically begins when an audiologist confirms a child's status as deaf or hard of hearing and refers the parents to an early intervention program. A parent can also contact their local school district, county human services, or public health office themselves if they think their child needs help.
Once the school district receives information about the child and family, the district typically sends an educational team to the family's home to conduct a full assessment of the family's and child's needs. Depending upon need, the team can include many people such as special education teacher, early childhood specialist, physical therapist, speech/language pathologist, nurse, and psychologist. Please note that it is extremely important for a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing be involved in the assessment of your child. This is the professional who is educated and licensed to serve children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The assessment must include input from the parents. For children who are deaf or hard of hearing, part of this input will be what language and methods of communication you have chosen for your child. Common approaches include:
- Bi-lingual/Bi-cultural – American Sign Language (ASL) is used as the primary language of instruction with English taught later as a second language through written format.
- Cued Speech - Teachers and students use cued speech (lip reading supplemented by clear visual cues) for a focus on English as the primary language of communication.
- Listening and Spoken Language programs – Teachers and students focus on English with the development of speech reading, listening, and speaking skills.
- Total Communication – A philosophy of communication that employs a combination of components of the above approaches.
Parent preference in communication will influence the programming for an eligible child and family. We encourage you to use the links below to learn more about communication opportunities.
Once the assessment is complete, the parents, a special education teacher, a school district representative, and perhaps others will meet to discuss eligibility for special education services. If eligible, the team, including the parents, will develop an educational plan. The families' early intervention Service Coordinator can also help inform you about additional resources such as those related to health care, housing, and other needs.
The special education process for an eligible child basically looks like this:
Assessment of needs > Outcomes to meet needs > Services to meet outcomes > Services provided in a natural environment > Progress reports
Note that not all children will meet the eligibility criteria set by Minnesota. If your child is not determined to be eligible:
- Call PACER Center if you do not agree with this determination and wish for more information on how to resolve the disagreement.
- Ask your school district what Section 504 accommodations your child may need in a day care or other preschool setting (for more detailed information on Section 504, a federal antidiscrimination law, contact PACER Center).
What is an Educational Plan? Does my Child Need One to Get Services? What Should I Look for in the Plan?
The education plan describes what outcomes, objectives, and services the child and family will receive to meet the educational needs of the child and family. For children under age three, this plan is referred to as Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).
The IFSP should be developed by looking at the assessed needs of the child and family. The initial assessment is done to find out if the child is eligible for services. But once eligible, the assessment is also used to guide what services the child and family need. Therefore, it is very important for parents to carefully read the assessment report to make sure it is complete and accurate before an IFSP is developed.
What should parents look for in the IFSP? For most children who are deaf or hard of hearing, parents will look for services that will begin to develop:
- the child’s language both expressively (what the child says) and receptively (what others say)
- listening skills to maximize the benefit a child may receive through a hearing aid or cochlear implant or by learning to use their residual hearing (hearing the child has naturally)
- any other developmentally appropriate skills the child may need as identified in the assessment report
The IFSP will also address family needs such as counseling or instruction in sign language or cued speech if you decide to use either of those approaches.
The IFSP is to be provided in a “natural environment.” Natural environment means places where infants and toddlers without disabilities would typically be found (Families Are Important, PACER, 2014). For children who are deaf or hard of hearing, the services are typically provided in the home, in a day care setting, and/or in a program specifically designed for children who are deaf and hard of hearing.
For the first or initial IFSP, the school may not begin services until after the parents sign that they agree with the plan. The plan will be reviewed at least once a year. Once the IFSP is in place, services can be provided to the child and family.
Where to Go for More Information on Early Intervention in Minnesota
- PACER Center (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) is an extensive source of free information for Minnesota parents and is the basis for much of the information provided in this section. PACER offers a variety of supports including parent advocates to talk with you and answer questions about early intervention, workshops on the law and issues in early childhood, and a computer resources center that includes assistive technology. (952) 838-9000 (V); www.pacer.org. You may want to ask for an advocate with expertise in deaf and hard of hearing advocacy.
- Understanding the Early Intervention System
- PACER’s other Early Childhood program publications
For Children Ages 3-5
Transition planning should begin at least 90 days before your child’s third birthday. The goal is a smooth transition from early intervention programming to a preschool or other community program. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed for eligible children age three and above. The IEP is to be provided in the “least restrictive environment.” Least restrictive environment means that, to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities will be educated with children who do not have disabilities. However, it is important to note that “in planning for the child’s transition to preschool, the team should consider whether or not the child could make appropriate progress in an inclusive environment if the appropriate supports and services were provided.” (Families Are Important, PACER, 2014).
- National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities
- Minnesota Department of Education
- PACER’s Early Childhood program and publications
Early Intervention Programs
To contact Early Intervention Program, call the number listed below for your county.
- Anoka County: Central Intake, 763.323.KIDS
- Carver County: First Step Intervention, 952.368.0160
- Dakota County: Early Intervention System Coordinator, 651.552.3040
- Minneapolis: 612.348.TOTS
- Northwest Hennepin Osseo: 763.315.7440
- Northwest Robbinsdale: 763.504.4180
- South Suburban: 952.563.8900
- West Suburban: 952.933.GROW
- Ramsey County: Central Intake, 651.604.3700
- Scott County: First Step Early Intervention, 952.368.0160
- Washington County: Central Intake, 651.430.6700
For other counties, contact the Minnesota Department of Education toll free at 866.693.4769.