Early Intervention 101

As speech pathologist, we know the Early Intervention program can be confusing for parents, so this article is here to help! The Early Intervention program has been around since 1986, and is administered through the Department of Health. It is a FREE service provided to children under 3 years of age, who have a developmental delay or a diagnosed disability in physical, cognitive, communication, social-emotional, and/or adaptive development. As speech pathologists, we always recommend parents consider an evaluation through Early Intervention. Even if you only have the slightest concern about development, it is important to have a specialist determine if help is truly needed. Here are the steps you should follow:

Call 311, tell the operator the age of your child and what your concern is, and they will provide you with a list of early intervention agencies that will be able to evaluate your child. We have also listed a few agencies at the end of this article.

Once you’ve picked an agency to use for your evaluation process, you will be assigned a Service Coordinator (SC). The SC will conduct an interview/screening with the parents and determine what their concerns are. If the concern is speech, for example, a special instructor, or teacher will conduct an evaluation along with a speech evaluator. These evaluations can be conducted in your home, at the daycare, or even at a preschool.

Once the evaluations are conducted, you will receive a copy of the evaluations in the mail, and you will also receive a phone call from one or all of the evaluators to inform you of the testing results. If your child received a score of a 33% delay in one area (e.g. speech) or a 25% delay in two areas (e.g. speech and physical therapy), then you will be asked to attend an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) meeting. If your child is not found eligible, the process will end here, but you have the right to request a re-evaluation at any time; however, they usually advise waiting 3 months before your next evaluation request.

The Early Intervention meeting will be attended by the caregiver, the Early Intervention Officer (EIO), your Service Coordinator, and usually one of the evaluators, or a representative. This meeting is conducted to determine what services are necessary and how frequently they should be provided. The IFSP will also list the parents’ concerns and the goals they would like to see achieved within the next 6 months. This meeting can be conducted in the home if there are extenuating circumstances for the family. The meeting can also be conducted via phone; however, we highly suggest you are physically present for IFSP meetings, so you can better convey your concerns and feelings. You are your child’s best advocate and being present for the meeting shows you are not only concerned, but you’re also ready to get the most and best possible remediation for your child.

Now that the meeting is over, you have to wait to be assigned a provider. If your child was found eligible for physical therapy, for example, then you will need to wait for a physical therapist to be found. We highly suggest you speak with your friends and neighbors who have therapists come to the home because finding a therapist can be difficult and time consuming. If you go to the IFSP with a provider in mind, you can avoid the wait time of the agency finding you a therapist! And your therapist does NOT have to work for the agency that conducted your evaluations!

Therapy will begin shortly after the IFSP meeting. A therapist will come to your home, or even to the daycare/preschool to conduct therapy. Your therapist will be required to write progress reports every three months. A new IFSP will also be generated every 6 months to update goals.

The process should take about 45 days in total. So be prepared to wait for services, but once they begin, it’s worth the wait! And it is a FREE service provided by the state.

We hope this article was helpful. We know how difficult it is to navigate the murky waters of early intervention. Below is a list of Early Intervention Agencies in NYC that you can call directly if you are interested in having your child evaluated:

Function Life Achievement (212) 683-8905

Marathon Infants and Toddlers (718) 423-9484 

Achieve Beyond (718) 762-7633

YAI LifeStart (212) 418-0346

Los Ninos Services (212) 787-9700 

As speech therapists, many parents ask us what to do if their child does not qualify for Early Intervention services, but they still feel like he/she can still benefit from speech therapy. You have a few options. You can get a private consultation where a speech therapist can screen your child and give you some techniques on how to promote speech and language. Many families choose to go ahead and get private speech therapy to make sure their child is at age level once they enter kindergarten. A little extra push sometimes goes a long way!

Another option is seeing a speech therapist through your insurance plan. However, many insurance companies do not cover speech therapy services. Depending on your plan, you may be able to use your flex spending or pay out of pocket and get reimbursed a certain percentage once you send in your invoices. Every plan is different so be sure to talk to your insurance providers beforehand!

Feel free to contact us at Gift of Gab for any questions about Early Intervention or private speech therapy.