in Early Intervention
First learning that your child has a disability and is in need of intervention can be a frightening and confusing time. Parents are simultaneously dealing with the fact that their child has challenges, educating themselves about the disability and learning about what services are available. The attorney’s at Javerbaum Wurgaft have the patience, expertise and knowledge to help our clients navigate the early intervention system and ensure that appropriate services are provided for their children.
Early Intervention services are available to all eligible children from birth to three years of age. New Jersey’s Early Intervention System receives state and federal funding through Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The goal of early intervention is to lessen the effects of the child’s disability or delay. Services are designed to identify and meet a child's unique needs in the following developmental areas:
- Physical development;
- Cognitive development;
- Social or emotional development; and,
- Adaptive development.
New Jersey’s Early Intervention System is run by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services in coordination with the New Jersey Department of Human Services, the New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey Developmental Disabilities Council. A State Interagency Coordinating Council assists the Department of Health and Senior Services as the lead agency in the development and implementation of early intervention services for children ages birth to three years old with developmental delays or disabilities.
The federal law regarding Early Intervention can be found in Part C of the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Federal regulations regarding Early Intervention can be found at 34 C.F.R. Part 303. New Jersey enacted P.L. 1993, Chapter 309 as compatible state legislation to the IDEA. In 2007, the New Jersey Legislature amended P.L. 1993, Chapter 309 to specifically address the needs of children diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorders in order to ensure that they receive appropriate early intervention services as early as possible. New Jersey state rules governing Early Intervention can be found at N.J.A.C. §8:17.
Anyone may make a referral to Early Intervention by calling the statewide toll free number 1-888-653-4463. Special Child Health Services’ Case Management Units in each NJ County are the points of entry into the Early Intervention System. When a referral is made, a service coordinator is assigned to work with the family and will arrange evaluations to determine the child’s eligibility. These evaluations are performed at no cost to the family.
A child’s eligibility is determined based on the standardized evaluations performed by Early Intervention, the parents report and evaluations or clinical opinions from the child’s doctors. Eligibility is based on the following set of criteria adjusted for corrected age in cases of children born before 38 weeks gestation. This corrected age is used until the child reaches two years old. New Jersey regulations concerning eligibility are found at N.J.A.C. §8:17-7.1.
A child is eligible to receive Early Intervention Services if he/she is found to have:
- A developmental delay of 25% in two or more developmental areas (cognitive; physical, including gross motor, fine motor, vision and hearing; communication, social/emotional or adaptive); or
- A developmental delay of 33% in one of the developmental areas listed above; or
- A medically diagnosed physical or mental condition that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay (including Autism spectrum disorders – see N.J.A.C. 8:17-7.1(d) 8).
If the child meets the criteria above, an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) will be developed to meet the needs of the child and the family. If the child is deemed ineligible for Early Intervention, recommendations may be made for referral to other appropriate resources. If the child’s parents disagree with the team’s determination of ineligibility, they may appeal the determination by filing for mediation, an impartial due process hearing or by filing an administrative complaint with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.
THE INDIVIDUALIZED FAMILY SERVICE PLAN (IFSP)
An IFSP is a document outlining the present levels of development, goals, services and supports that a child will receive through the Early Intervention System. The IFSP is a collaborative document developed at a meeting with the family, evaluators, Early Intervention service coordinator and any other professionals that the family wants to include. In order for the IFSP to go into effect the parents must consent to what is contained therein. If the parents only agree to part of the plan contained in the IFSP, they may consent to the part with which they agree and receive those services while rejecting others. In addition, the parents may withdraw their consent at any time thereafter. The IFSP is reviewed every six months or even more frequently if necessary to ensure that the child is receiving appropriate services. A meeting is held with the parents at least once per year to review the child’s progress and make adjustments to the IFSP where necessary. New Jersey regulations governing the IFSP can be found at N.J.A.C. §8:17 Chapter 8.
The services outlined in the child’s IFSP are designed to address the child’s developmental delays. These services are provided to the child in a “natural environment” such as the child’s home or in the community in which the child resides. It is the goal of Early Intervention to provide the child with the services necessary to address the child’s developmental delays as early as possible in order to achieve the best outcome.
An IFSP can include one or more of the following services:
- Assistive Technology
- Audiology Services
- Developmental Intervention
- Family Training and Counseling
- Health Services
- Medical Services
- Nursing Services
- Occupational Therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Psychological Services
- Service Coordination
- Social Work Services
- Speech/Language Services
- Vision Service
As outlined in N.J.A.C. §8:17 Chapter 9, certain services provided by early intervention are at no cost to the parents while others require participation on a sliding scale based on the parents’ financial resources. Referral, evaluation, service coordination, and IFSP development are provided, in accordance with federal law, at no cost to the family.
The Early Intervention Procedural Safeguards Office is charged with ensuring the resolution of disputes with regard to Early Intervention. Procedural safeguards available to parents and guardians are outlined in N.J.A.C. §8:17 Chapter 13 and include the right to mediation, the filing of an administrative complaint, as well as a due process hearing.