Did you know that how a child qualifies for early intervention (EI) differs depending on where he lives?? How do children qualify in your state or country?
Early Intervention Eligibility in the US
In the US, Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act outlines two ways that children qualify for early intervention services: 1) developmental delay in one or more area of development (cognition, communication, motor, self-help, and social-emotional), or 2) a diagnosed condition with a high probability of developmental delay (e.g., cerebral palsy, Down syndrome). States also have the option to serve children who are at-risk for developmental delays. In Virginia, children must have a 25% delay in one or more area, a diagnosed condition, and/or atypical development (based on specific criteria).
States designate how children qualify under each of these categories – they determine the level of delay or standard deviation, which diagnosed conditions qualify, whether or not at-risk children are served and under what criteria. This is important for service coordinators and providers to know when transitioning children and families to other states and countries.
To find out about different eligibility criteria across the US, check out this resource: Summary Table of States’ and Territories’ Definitions of/Criteria for IDEA Part C Eligibility (2012) (PDF, New Window) from the Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center.
Early Intervention from an International Perspective
Many countries, such as Canada, Australia, and China also have early intervention programs and they define their own eligibility criteria as well. Since we have international readers on this blog, I would love to know how children qualify for early intervention where you! Share your location and eligibility criteria in the comments below!
If you’re interested in more info about EI internationally, check out these resources:
- International Resources on Early Intervention (ECTA Center)
- International Society on Early Intervention – You can register to be a member for free, share and request resources, and access a large professional training resource library.
- Early Childhood Development and Disability: A Discussion Paper (PDF, New Window) (World Health Organization)
Best Practices for Determining Eligibility
While eligibility criteria may differ by state or country, best practices are universal. Here are a few best practices for determining eligibility:
Use more than one source of information – Child development is complex and interconnected, and there is no one assessment tool that provides complete information. Many tools did not include children with disabilities in their norming sample, and some are more reliable than others. Be sure to use more than one tool when looking at development to gather the most accurate picture possible.
Listen to parents – Some tools allow the use of parent report for scoring purposes, while others do not. Research has found that parents are generally very accurate in their knowledge of their child’s strengths and needs, so listen to what they say even if you can’t use their information when scoring the test. You can use that information to understand the child’s development in the context of daily life.
Use informed clinical opinion – Combining the use of well-designed assessment tools with informed clinical opinion helps makes the eligibility information meaningful and links it to real life, which is how we connect the dots between the evaluation and the outcomes and services developed on the IFSP. This is also an IDEA requirement for programs in the US.
Use a multidisciplinary team – Having at least two people from different disciplines (i.e., educator and physical therapist) determine a child’s eligibility is part of the team approach and ensures that no single person makes this important decision alone.
Remember that the child is more than the delay or disability that qualifies him/her – Designate how the child qualifies then move on. Once a child has qualified for early intervention, put that “category” aside and look at the child’s individual strengths and needs. Develop intervention based on what is unique about the child and family, not based on how he qualified for services.
What tips and tools do you use in your program to determine a child’s eligibility?
How do children qualify for services where you are??
For practitioners in Virginia, visit these resources for more info about eligibility:
- ITC of VA Eligibility Criteria and Diagnosed Conditions (PDF, New Window) (Quick Reference Guide)
- Infant & Toddler Connection of VA Practice Manual – Chapter 5: Eligibility Determination (PDF, New Window)