ECI: One of the Best Kept Secrets for New Parents

ECIEarly Childhood Intervention (ECI) is one of the best kept secrets for new parents. Here’s how to get your free, state-funded services and supports from Birth to 3 years old:

Birth to 3 is All Free, For the Most Part

State-supported programs, like the Regional Centers, provide free SLP, OT, PT, Specialized Infant/Toddler Center Based Programs, and In-Home Child Development Programs from birth to 3 without too much fuss because the government has designated these three years as the most needed in terms of a child’s development.

Here’s the “For the Most Part”:

Let’s be clear: there are, of course, a few things to be aware of when it comes to funding. In the state of California, for example, regional centers are contracted through the Department of Developmental Services (DDS). There’s no charge for diagnosis or assessment but once your child is eligible for services you must first exhaust “generic resources”, which are defined as: “a service provided by an agency that has a legal responsibility to provide services to the general public and receives public funds for providing those services… local school district, county social services department, Medi-Cal, Social Security Administration, Department of Rehabilitation and others.”

If they’re still within that 0-3 age range, however, you may be able to address the concern early enough to help your child in the long-run. If you’re concerned there is a delay in the areas of cognitive, social/emotional, physical, adaptive, or communication take the following steps* to find out for sure:

  1. Do Your Homework: Understand the Timeline, Process and Procedure for Getting and Maintaining Services, specifically the transition from ECI to the IEP process, as well as getting long-term services via The Lanterman Act
  2. Call your local Regional Center and request an assessment for the area of needs (CA Specific: DDS -Regional Centers)
  3. Know Your Rights and the Law
  4. If you find it’s all just too overwhelming or you need a little help navigating this system, hire an attorney or advocate, like us. (Terry Tutors: Education Advocacy Services -download our free advocacy PowerPoint)

The Caveat: Time is Not on Your Side

Unfortunately, the majority of the time parents do not know about Regional Center services or end up finding out too late simply because the child’s delay may not present until the age of 2 or even a little later. Since ECI services are only until age 3, oftentimes a child will “age out” before parents see real results. There’s still the transition meeting and potential IEP through the school district as well as the possibility of Lanterman Services (if the need is severe enough) but, for most typically developing children the need is minor (a God-send, for sure!) but because so, they are not eligible for subsequent services.

You Know What Your Child Needs

You’ve got that “Parental Sixth-Sense”, right! You know what your child needs.

That’s why I encourage all new parents to do their research, seeking out all opportunities for supports during these formative years. If you have even the slightest inkling that there may be a delay or need of some sort, I urge you to seek out help now so that you can set your child up for success in the future.

And if you need a little help along the way, I’m here. Reach out at http://www.TerryTutors.com

*California Specific Information

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them: “To be a part of a student’s ‘ah ha’ moment is the best feeling in the world because I know I’m helping that student build foundational confidence that will lead to a successful path, not just in school but throughout life!”

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I am Thankful for My Sister: The Amazing Speech Pathologist

Elisabeth Zambia

Elisabeth Miller, Extraordinary Speech Pathologist, in Zambia, Africa providing Speech Services with CLASP International

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to give a well-deserved “Thanks!” to my talented and extraordinary little sister, Elisabeth Miller, M.S., CCC-SLP. She has many letters after her name but there’s not an ounce of pomp. Elisabeth works for RiverKids Pediatric Home Health, where she provides clinical Speech & Language Therapy services for Medicaid Patients ages Birth to 21.  Since she’s so kindly taken the Thanksgiving break to visit her L.A. based sister (myself), I thought I’d take this opportunity to interview her about her work in hopes that it will lend some clarity as to what exactly Speech & Language Pathologists (SLP) do.

In general, what does a Speech & Language Pathologist do?

We treat people with all types of communication disorders, which includes any disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate and understand the world around them. We also work on feeding and swallowing for kids and adults who have food aversions/swallowing disorders, and babies weaning from G-Tubes.

Why did you choose to pursue a degree in Speech Pathology?

My mother (our mother) picked it for me. I wanted to work with children, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a teacher in a school because I didn’t know if I wanted to work with large groups of kids. My mother told me to be an SLP because I could work with kids or adults in a 1:1 setting in a hospital or school, and I would always have a job .

Have you found that to be true?

Yes, jobs are plentiful. Totally recession proof. It’s emotionally rewarding and challenging.

What types of kids do you work with?

I see children who have complex medical histories, like prematurity, long hospital stays, weaning from g-buttons or ventilators. I encounter parents who are overwhelmed with the diagnosis and I’m  able to provide family support, education, training, and help their child see improvements.

Tell us a story. A good one about your experience as an SLP.

My favorite kids are those who are labeled as Intellectually Disabled (ID) formerly known as Mentally Retarded. My one little boy, age 9, was labeled as ID and never really able to speak. He had lots of therapy but what I discovered during testing was that he actually had complex motor deficits, including dysarthria (muscle weakness), and Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS), which prevented him from acquiring spoken language. His family had wanted him to speak but had given up hope that it was possible because it had been so many years and he just wasn’t progressing. What I found is that when we took the focus away from forcing him to communicate and teaching him instead how to control the muscles in his mouth to formulate sounds, syllables, and words that he was quite capable of being a verbal communicator; he just never had the opportunity or appropriate treatment. I have learned never to give up on kids based on a diagnosis of ID or Autism. Currently, he’s 10 now and he’s playing with his siblings appropriately and calls for them by name using short phrases. He’s making great strides.

What’s one thing you think that the schools do well at in terms of providing SLP Services to students?

I think the schools are doing well at trying to identify children earlier and getting them into special programs at a younger age, which means that they will hopefully have better outcomes as they get older.

What’s one thing you think the schools could improve upon?

Not removing services for children who are in Middle and High School, as this is a critical period for them to learn skills they may not have acquired during their younger years, such as reading, social-communication skills, and functional communication. We have to better prepare them to leave high school.

Have you found your passion within your career?

Definitely! I love working with pediatrics. I work in a Home Health setting and I get the best of both worlds: access to the family, home environment, and able to work with the child 1:1 or incorporate siblings or peers within the community.

So proud of my little sis. For more on Elisabeth and her work, check out CLASP International and RiverKids Pediatric Home Health

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services.  Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

10 Tips on How to Navigate the Special Education System

FAPESpecial Education can present sticky situations when it comes to services, funding, and finding the right school fit. Anyone who works in the schools or has been a part of the IEP circle in some respect knows that it’s no secret getting services for your child can be an uphill battle. Don’t worry– we’re here to help you navigate the system in a collaborative and compassionate manner.

Here’s what you need to know: (Download our Special Education Advocacy PowerPoint)

1. Know Your Acronyms & Case Law So You Can Speak the Special Ed Lingo: FAPE, IDEA, IFSP, IEP, IEE, LRE, SELPA; Board of Ed. v Rowley, 458 US 176 (1982) aka The Cadillac v Chevrolet argument

2. Regional Center to Public School Transition: Birth to 36 months = ECI Services; 36 months to 21 Years: Services through the Public School

3. Understand the IEP Process:

  • Qualifying Disability as defined by 20 U.S.C. sec. 1401 (3)(A)
  • Request for Referral for an Evaluation
  • Public School Approves or Denies the Request: If Approved then there is Psycho-Educational Testing v. If Denied: Appeal and IEE Option
  • School is looking at where your child falls on the Standard Deviation Bell Curve
  • Annual IEP Meeting but you can ask for more
  • Tri-Annual (every 3 years) Evaluation of new Psycho-Educational Testing
  • Know Your PLOP Goals: Measurable & Realistic

4.  Is ADD/ADHD Part of Special Ed? No.: Not considered part of Special Ed but can get 504 Plan, which governs accommodations. So how do you get services for children diagnosed with ADHD? Must pair the diagnosis with a qualifying disability as defined under 20 U.S.C. section 1401 (3)(A).

5. New DSM Info About Autism: New DSM does away with Asperger’s and PDD-NOS. Instead there is one umbrella diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder with various severity levels.

6. What Services Are You Asking For? OT, PT, SLP, Resource; usually Pull-Out services in Group with 3-4 students for 30 minutes 1-2 times per week; Push In Classroom Services v Pull Out Group or Individual Services

7. What’s Inclusion & Mainstreaming: It began in the 80’s and is the public education’s choice form of classroom methodology– mixed learning abilities in a general education classroom with a general education teacher

8. Parent Rights:

  • You do not have to test your child.
  • You do not have to sign the IEP at the Meeting
  • You can ask for more than one IEP per year
  • You can ask to observe your child and the therapy
  • You can ask for a copy of the report and testing
  • You can ask for additional hours and services

9. Alternatives to Traditional Public Education: (1) Paid by the State: Homeschooling, Charters; (2) Paid by the District: Non-Public Schools; (3) Private Pay: Private School, possible tuition reimbursement under Burlington School Committee v. Dept. of Ed, 471 US 379 (1985)

10. To Sum it up:

  • If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen.
  • You don’t have to sign the IEP at the IEP Meeting.
  • You have more rights than you know.
  • Your job is to know the law and fight for your child’s rights in a collaborative manner.
  • You can be your child’s own advocate!

All in all, you must be your child’s own advocate but sometimes you need a little help along the way. That’s where we come in.

We focus on identifying your child’s areas of needed support, qualifying for assessments and evaluations through the school district or the state regional center, attending and reviewing Student Success Team (SST) & Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meetings at the school, Coordinating Care between all public and private service providers, teaching you how to navigate the education and state systems, and teaching your child self-advocacy.

Because when all is said and done, the end goal is for your child to be self-sufficient–they just need a little help along the way, and that’s okay.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Wraparound Support Service for The Struggling Student by combining Academic, Behavior, and Advocacy support. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.