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Family Link invites inquiries from physicians. We believe that through partnership with physicians we can provide the most comprehensive developmental care for infants and toddlers with disabilities and delays and their families. We can provide you with brochures or other educational materials for your staff and patients. Please contact Carmela Balacco, Director of Family Support at 908-964-5303 or carmelab@njeis.org  to discuss any concerns you may have or information you may need.

Early Intervention eligibility evaluations are provided at no cost to the family. A physician referral is not required. We encourage you to share your concerns with families and refer them to the Special Child Health Services Unit in their county.

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This article is reprinted with generous permission from The New Jersey Pediatrician, Volume 26, Winter 2001, newsletter of the American Academy of Pediatrics/ New Jersey Chapter.

Update on Early Intervention Services
Joseph Halahan, MD, FAAP
Committee on Children with Disabilities
Chair

In New Jersey, Early Intervention Services are available for infants and toddlers from birth until 3 years of age who manifest significant developmental problems. Most of these services are available at no cost to families. Eligibility criteria include a developmental delay of 33% in one developmental area or a 25% delay in two or more areas. In addition, infants and toddlers with a physician diagnosed condition, representing a high probability of developmental delay, such as Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, etc., are also eligible.

For the infants and toddlers who meet the 33% or 25% delay criteria, a specific medical diagnosis is not required for eligibility and participation in Early Intervention Services. When an infant or toddler presents with an apparent developmental delay, it is appropriate to refer for Early Intervention therapeutic services at the same time that referrals may be underway to determine a medical diagnosis or potential medical treatments. The Early Intervention team will conduct an evaluation and decide if eligibility criteria are met.

Once eligible, an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is developed and service coordination is provided. Families participate in the entire process and have the right to refuse or disagree with recommendations. Parent training and development of parent competence are integral components of the intervention process and services are provided within the child's natural environment, most often the home, but may include other community sites as well.

There is strong emphasis on partnership with the family in planning and delivery of services. The family is actively involved in development of objectives and in planning the services their child will receive.

It is generally recognized that there has been an increase in the number of infants and children presenting with disorders on the Autistic/PDD spectrum and early provision of services for these youngsters is especially important in optimizing their long-range prognosis. Early recognition of these disorders is most important. A number of indicators may help to recognize these youngsters at an earlier age. These indicators include: loss of speech after a number of words had developed; lack of language comprehension and following directions; lack of interest in peers and a strong determination to do their own thing; absence of pointing and use of gestures to communicate and lack of response to similar gestures; as well as a variety of repetitive mannerisms such as arm-flapping or an inordinate fascination with certain objects or topics.

The vast majority of families appreciate their pediatrician's concern. They want to hear early on if there are concerns regarding their child's development and
want to proceed to determine if there truly are developmental problems that need to be addressed and if so, want their child to begin to receive remedial services as quickly as possible. They understand that it is difficult to be sure when infants and toddlers are still young, but would rather hear there is a concern and take the necessary steps toward further evaluation and services if they are indicated.

The point of entry for Early Intervention Services for each county is through the Department of Special Child Health and Senior Services, County Case Management units. There is a separate number for each county that can then be utilized for subsequent referrals. The County Case Management unit and phone number for each county can be obtained by calling 609-777-7734.

 


 
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