WHO REQUIRES EARLY INTERVENTION OR SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES?
This chapter will discuss the types of early intervention and special education services available, the referral process, and what pediatricians and other pediatric medical providers can do to help their families learn to navigate these important systems. Some red flags that should alert pediatric medical providers to the potential need for early intervention supports for infants and toddlers include high-risk neurobiologic (eg, prematurity) or psychosocial (eg, teenaged parents, maternal depression, poverty) conditions and failure to attain developmental milestones as expected. Red flags for preschool-aged children to alert pediatric medical providers to the potential need for special education preschool supports include high-risk neurobiologic or psychosocial conditions, new medical or developmental diagnoses, failure to attain developmental milestones as expected, and associated maladaptive behaviors. For school-aged children, red flags to alert pediatric medical providers to the potential need for special education supports include high-risk neurobiologic or psychosocial conditions, new medical or developmental diagnoses, failure to attain developmental milestones and academic skills (ie, school failure), and associated maladaptive behaviors.
Role of Primary Care Pediatric Medical Providers
The role of primary care pediatric medical providers can be pivotal, not only in the medical outcomes for a child with special needs, but in the child’s educational outcomes as well. The primary care pediatric medical provider can be both a source of information and advocacy for children and their families and an expert resource for educational staff to understand complex medical conditions, treatment plans, and their integration with educational services from preschool through adolescence. Children with neurodevelopmental disabilities, in particular, typically have chronic, lifelong conditions that will need varying degrees of intervention and treatment. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) directs pediatricians to provide a medical home for these patients, to help coordinate medical care, and to act as a resource for families. While such patients may have ongoing needs for medical procedures or therapies, they are also likely to need additional educational services and supports.
Early intervention and special education are mandated by federal law to provide free, appropriate public education (FAPE) services to children with disabilities either through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. IDEA is the federal law that supports special education and related service programming for children and youth with disabilities. It was originally known as the Education of All Handicapped Children Act, passed in 1975, which provided special education services for children from 5 to 21 years of age. In 1986, this law was extended to include special education preschool support for children from 3 to 5 years of age. In addition, the 1986 law established the Grants for Infants and Families program (Part C of IDEA), which is a federal grant program that assists states in operating a comprehensive statewide program of early intervention services for infants and toddlers from birth through 3 ...