What to Expect Along Your EI Journey
I’ve called the Alliance for Infants and Toddlers in Allegheny County and have scheduled an Early Intervention Evaluation for my child. What can I expect?
When you first meet with the Service Coordinator (SC), you and the SC will schedule the initial evaluation for your child. Together, you and the SC will determine which discipline of therapists will attend your child’s evaluation. There could be only one therapist or multiple depending on your concerns about your child. These therapists are independent assessors and will not be the same therapists providing services to your child moving forward. This is to make sure there is no conflict of interest! If your child qualifies for services, you will be given a list of possible providers from which to choose. Let your SC know you’d like a therapist from TEIS!
No two evaluations are the same, but here is a description of how your child’s evaluation could go. The evaluating therapists are people who work with kids every day and are able to go with the flow. The service coordinator will arrive with the evaluating therapists. There will be at least one computer, several bags and quite a bit of paperwork so don’t be surprised if your child is curious about all of it. The floor is the best place to set up. At this point your house will be pretty busy and your child might need some time to warm up and become comfortable with everyone. That’s ok! Typically, as the service coordinator and evaluators ask you questions, your child will warm up and begin to engage with the evaluators, especially after they see that you are comfortable with them.
To begin, the service coordinator will ask you some questions. Each evaluator will ask you more questions as they go through their specific parts of the assessment. During the evaluation the team will look at five areas of development: adaptive/self-help skills, communication skills, personal-social development, motor development, and cognitive development. They will use an assessment called the Battelle Developmental Inventory or BDI-2 or the DAYC-2, depending upon your child’s age. Through a combination of questions for you and simple play activities for your child, this assessment will determine whether your child has a delay and is eligible to receive early intervention services. Depending on your concerns the assessment team may use additional tools to determine eligibility.
Don’t be concerned if they ask questions to which you have to say no! As part of the standardized assessment the evaluators have to reach the “ceiling” in each area of development, which means they have to continue to test your child or ask you questions until they get 3 “NO’s” in a row. It is part of the process. The evaluation process is time consuming so if your child needs a diaper change, snack or a break, feel free to speak up and tell the team. You know your child best and will be able to see if he/she needs a break.
After the Evaluation
After the evaluation is done the team will score the assessment so you will know if your child qualifies before everyone leaves that day. In order to be eligible, your child needs to have a qualifying score in one of the developmental domains and/or have a diagnosis that places your child at risk for a developmental delay. There are rare times when your child doesn’t have an eligible score but the team will use their clinical opinion to justify your child receiving services. At this point the SC and at least 1 therapist will remain at the house to develop your child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) which will be the basis for therapy moving forward.
If the service coordinator asks you if you want the “first available provider,” tell the service coordinator that you want TEIS. By law, every provider needs to see your child within 14 days of the evaluation.
Choose TEIS – our therapists are available to meet federal, state, local and YOUR requirements.
Your First Session with a TEIS Therapist
The evaluation has determined that your son or daughter is eligible for Early Intervention Services and you have selected TEIS as your provider. Therapists are required to offer a first session within 14 days of your evaluation. Therefore, you should expect a phone call from your TEIS therapist within a few days after the evaluation to set up a date and time for your first visit, based on the availability you provided to your Service Coordinator.
The first session with your TEIS therapist will set the stage for a great working relationship between you, your child and your therapist. We are here to help you and your family! Together we will problem solve ways to deal with challenges, decrease stress, and help you enjoy routines with your child. We empower caregivers to take an active role during sessions by practicing techniques and coming up with solutions. You and your therapist will spend time discussing your expectations and your therapist’s expectations. Additionally, your therapist will start gathering information from you about your family’s daily routines, strengths, challenges, and learning styles to begin “painting” a picture of your needs. Expect your TEIS therapist to ask many questions and get your input during this and future sessions. After all, you are the expert on your child! TEIS considers you an equal member of the Early Intervention Team!
Your therapist will also be reviewing visit policies, cancellation policies, and completing initial paperwork. You will have the opportunity to sign up for the TEIS Family Digest Newsletter for additional support and local resources/activities. At each session, your therapist will spend a few minutes completing a session note, which you will sign and receive a copy. This is a summary of what happened and was observed during therapy and includes a plan of what will be worked on next time. This is a great time to collaborate with your therapist and voice your concerns! The session note is a great reference for you, or other family members, so that therapy can be incorporated into your daily routines between sessions. You and your therapist will plan for the next session date and set up a recurring appointment time. It will be important to share with your therapist the best method of contact and if you would appreciate reminders for sessions.
As your child develops and progresses in Early Intervention, his or her Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) will be updated to reflect those changes. You will have an opportunity to review and make these updates with your therapist every 3 months during what is called a “Quarterly Review”. You will complete a 3-, 6-, and 9-month Quarterly Review with your therapist(s).
Expect an open discussion about progress and revisions to your child’s outcome, or strategies to achieve that outcome. Your input is welcome and valued during these reviews, as parents/caregivers are an equal member of the Early Intervention Team! During quarterly reviews, there is an opportunity to consider changes in service frequency, additional services, or discharging services if warranted or appropriate for progress.
Your TEIS therapist would appreciate feedback on the services delivered prior to each quarterly review. We want to know if there is anything we can do differently to meet the needs of your family.
Your service coordinator also participates in the quarterly reviews. He or she will be contacting you and your therapist(s) to schedule a time to review the progress and updates by either joining a home visit or completing by phone.
The Annual Review
Prior to the yearly anniversary of your child’s entry into early intervention, your TEIS therapist will complete an annual review form with you during one of your child’s therapy sessions. This information will be provided to your SC who will share it with an independent evaluation team. The SC and team will determine if your child continues to require services, if additional services are required, if services should be discontinued due to progress made, and if outcomes are still appropriate.
The SC will let you know before leaving the annual review how services will be delivered moving forward. The SC will also contact TEIS to let us know the results of the review.
Discharge before age 3
Your child may be discharged from early intervention before his/her third birthday because he/she has achieved your stated goals and no longer presents with a delay, or you have requested discontinuation of services.
Transition to Early Intervention Pre-School at age 3
Change can be a challenge, but we are here to support you as you transition from infant and toddler to pre-school Early Intervention.
My son, Calum, suffered multiple strokes at birth and spent the first 2 weeks of life in the NICU. Luckily, on discharge we were immediately referred to the Alliance and started services when he was a month old. Suddenly, our family had entered a parallel universe of weekly therapy, seizure medication, neurologist visits, splints, and confused relatives who had trouble really understanding what we were going through. But through this entire journey we had a stellar team of therapists and a Service Coordinator who helped us navigate this totally new way of life. Our therapists came into our home and were there for every high and low of our new, unexpected journey. And then, as he approached 3, we were suddenly faced with the prospect of losing these people who we had grown to trust and rely on.
As the parent of a child who received both types of Early Intervention, my advice is that no question is too trivial to ask, and if something does not make sense, don’t be afraid to ask the same question again. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, so ask for clarification if needed. Also, visit as many potential classroom sites as possible to find the ‘best fit’. You know your child best, and you’ll know in your gut when you find that perfect spot. Your 0-3 therapists are experts at working with the under 3 population. Once your child turns 3, they are ready for the next step, with a new team.
It is important to remember that once your child turns 3, funding for therapy comes from the Department of Education, so all therapy is provided from an academic perspective. If feeding or sensory issues are your child’s primary concerns, it might be advisable to look into outpatient services for help. Please remember that the 3-5 programs are restricted by their own specific mandates. They truly want to help but must work within their academic framework.
Despite our initial apprehension, our family ended up having a very smooth transition into the 3-5 program. Calum has flourished in this environment and continues to amaze us.
Having had both positive and negative experiences in different transition processes has added extra meaning to my role as TEIS’s Transition Coordinator. I recognize the difficulty and concerns many families have, and hope to alleviate some of these worries and help the process go as smoothly as possible. Change can be scary, but also exciting. Life is a journey and you are ready to enter the next step. Good luck!
– Bev C.
My child, age 3-5, has qualified for Early Intervention Pre-School….Now what?
Your child has qualified for age 3-5 early intervention services based on an assessment of developmental milestones (speech, motor, social/emotional, peer interaction, behavior). 3-5 year old services are provided by one of two agencies in Allegheny County, PPS (Pittsburgh Public School) or DART (Discovery, Assessment, Referral and Tracking). Once your child is assessed and has qualified to continue services you will be invited to attend an IEP meeting by your district. A therapist from your 0-3 team can be invited as well. This process is coordinated by your Service Coordinator. Your child is not required to attend this meeting.
IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan. It is similar to the IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan) you received for your child in 0-3 services, but has a more academic focus. School aged early intervention will focus on attention to task, communication with peers, and following directions in a classroom or community space. You will notice there are fewer instances of intervention in home-based routine, such as mealtimes, bathing and toileting, and sleep.
You will not receive a copy of the IEP prior to the meeting, although a DRAFT IEP will be provided at the meeting. You will meet with an agency representative from the district, your service coordinator, and possibly a therapist from your child’s 0-3 team. They will provide you with a description of services, an evaluation report of previously completed assessments, and a copy of the IEP.
You are your child’s advocate. Ask questions and voice any concerns about your child’s progress as stated by the plan! The agency representative for the district will read through each page of the plan, let you know who will be your child’s new therapist(s) and ask you to sign acknowledging that you agree on services. The meeting is scheduled to last less than an hour so sometimes the team moves quickly through the document. If you need further clarification or don’t understand something, speak up! It is okay to request changes or additions to the plan. It is a living document.
We suggest creating a list of topics or concerns regarding your child’s development in advance with your 0-3 EI therapists, especially if they are not able to attend the meeting. What challenges do you expect to face as you continue on your early intervention journey? What supports do you need to assist you as a parent and your child in the environment he/she will be in during the day? Preparation for the IEP will insure that all of your points are addressed during the meeting.
You may want to bring an adult with you for support and as an additional pair of ears and eyes. Two heads are better than one!
The system is created to decrease gaps in services during this transition time. Feel free to reach out to the agency representative if you have concerns!
Best of luck to you!
We fondly remember all of our TEIS graduates – we hope you feel the same way about us!