Disabilities

For families it is very difficult to hear that your child is not meeting the developmental milestones when you go in for an early childhood screening, or when your child’s home visitor or teacher does their first development screening upon entering the Head Start / Early Head Start program.  During this time, it is important to remember that there is a great deal of help available for families, especially if they are enrolled in a Head Start program.

Your child’s home visitor, family advocate or teacher may ask you if they can make a referral for more assessment through Help Me Grow.  This will connect them with the special education program nearest you to assist in the assessment of your child’s progress and identify any special services your child may need.

If it is identified that your child may need some additional services.  You may hear the terms IFSP / IEP / 504 plan / early intervention.  The most important piece of early intervention services is that it should always include the FAMILY in the process.  These should be done through a team approach, wrapping around the child to provide the most support and the best outcomes.  Children that are identified early may be more likely to no longer need services once they reach Kindergarten.

IFSP

This is an Individual Family Service Plan for children under 3.  It is developed by a team to record the family’s outcomes for themselves and their child.  It will list the early intervention services that will best help reach those outcomes and describes when, where and how those services will be delivered.  It is a map to guide you and the professionals working with you.  It should focus on your child’s strengths and needs.

IEP 

This is an Individual Education Program/Plan for children over 3 years old.  It is developed by a team, very similar to an IFSP.  It is designed to guide the professionals that work with your child, focusing on their strengths and needs.  These are reviewed annually by the team – which, like the IFSP, should always include the family in the process.  IEPs are created because the child has a disability that adversely affects their educational performance, they are protected under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. 

504

This refers to a section of the Rehabilitiation Act of 1973, it is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.   In order to qualify for a 504 plan a student must have a physical or mental impairment affecting a body system that substantially limits one or more major life activities (list of definitions available here).  This plan is written to describe the reasonable accommodations and other services a child will receive so they can participate fully in the school setting.  Again, the family are involved in the process.   Click here for MN specific information. Once a child is determined to have a developmental delay or a disability, parents may find it difficult to understand the process or navigate the system.  A resource that is useful to parents / families is PACER.  The PACER Center enhances the quality of life and expand opportunities for children, youth and young adults with all disabilities and their families so each person can reach his or her highest potential.  PACER operates on the principles of parents helping parents, supporting families, promoting a safe environment for all children, and working in collaboration with others.  PACER works to increase awareness; provides facts; helps with advocacy, public policy, and legislation; and provides training for professionals and parents.