Early Intervention Services
Early Intervention (EI) services are therapeutic services provided to infants who have been diagnosed with or are at risk for developmental delay. Children are eligible for services from birth until the date they turn 3. The main agency responsible for providing and overseeing EI services is the Illinois Department of Human Services.
The state is required to provide EI services to three groups of children:
1. Children with a disability due to a developmental delay in one or more areas of child development including: cognitive development; physical development; vision; hearing; language and speech; social and emotional development; and adaptive development.
2. Children with a "physical or mental condition that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay." This may mean: (1) a diagnosed medical condition that is known to result in developmental disabilities; or (2) a medical history of prenatal, or early developmental events which are likely to have damaged the developing central nervous system, increasing the child’s chances of developing a disability or delay.
3.Children at-risk of having substantial developmental delay. This may include children with one of a series of potential risk factors or those who are identified as being at risk for substantial developmental delay based on the informed clinical opinion of a multi-disciplinary team.
Child and Family Connections (CFC) sites coordinate EI services. In most cases a doctor’s office or hospital staff refers a child to the local CFC where a service coordinator is assigned and an assessment is scheduled. However, a parent need not wait for referral from a medical provider, but can call themselves to request an assessment for their child by calling the CFC general number at 1-800-323-GROW. Once a referral has been made, the CFC does a screening of each child to determine his or her eligibility for services.
Early Intervention services must be provided within very specific timelines and using specific methods. If the screening indicates that a child is eligible for services, then the CFC will coordinate an assessment of the child to evaluate the child’s functioning in a broad range of categories. Based on this assessment, a service plan is developed to meet the child’s individualized needs. The CFC appoints a Service Coordinator who is responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of the child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) which is a written contract listing the therapeutic services to be provided to the child, the location for service provision and the frequency of these services.
Once the IFSP has been developed, the Service Coordinator will work with the various service providers to ensure that they continue to provide the necessary services. Children are entitled to receive therapeutic services in an amount and duration that is detailed in the IFSP. These services may be provided either in the family’s home or at the CFC site, whichever is most convenient for the family. The Service Coordinator will also schedule a review of the IFSP at least once a year so that services are consistent with the child’s ongoing growth and development.
A parent’s inability to pay for services must not result in a denial of service. Medicaid eligible families should not be billed for services. The state can bill Medicaid directly for EI services. In fact, households with income at or below 185% of the federal poverty level will be will not be charged for EI services.
For families with income above 185% of the federal poverty level, charges apply for certain services on a sliding fee scale. The following services may result in costs to the family which will be assessed on EI’s sliding fee scale:
Speech and language therapy;
Psychological services; and
No family, regardless of income level, will not be charged for certain EI services including: screening; assessment; service coordination; and IFSP development and maintenance.
The EI program is federally obligated to provide a range of services including:
Social Work Services;
Transportation to and from service providers;
Family counseling and training;
Medical services for diagnostic purposes;
Early identification, screening and assessment services;
Vision services; and
Assistive technology devices and services.
Both the initial assessments and ongoing service provision must be done in an environment that is natural for the child, ie: a home or even a childcare center.
Transition to Special Education Services
Once a child reaches age three, they are no longer eligible for EI services and must be transitioned to begin receiving special education services through the family’s local school district. At the time a child receiving EI turns 2 ½ years old, the service provision team will start transitioning the family to begin receiving services through the school district. To do that, the child’s IFSP will be modified to ensure that the service plan is appropriate for the child’s current and ongoing needs. The special education staff from the school district will be invited to participate in this process and will eventually accept responsibility for the continuation of any ongoing services. This will also help to ensure that the child does not experience any gap in their services. If a new plan is not in place with the school district at the time the child turns 3, the child is entitled to continue receiving benefits through the EI system until they are ready for transition.
If a child is denied EI services or if there is a disruption or termination of their ongoing services, the child’s parents are entitled to appeal the denial, termination or disruption in services. A parent must file an appeal in writing with the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) within 10 days of the notice they received denying, terminating or changing services. IDHS will notify the parent in writing of their right to request a hearing. This request must be made in writing within 10 days of the date the family receives the IDHS notice. Parents are entitled to representation at the hearing by an attorney, or any other individual that the parent requests to have present.
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