Every parent looks forward to their baby's first smile, first words, and first steps. But what happens when a child is behind in reaching those milestones? If you are worried that your child "seems behind" compared to other children of the same age, it might be time to contact Early On. Sometimes families start by asking a doctor, nurse, or a child care provider for an opinion. If one of these professionals shares your concern, complete the online referral form, also listed as Step 1.
The referral is simply a recommendation to have a child evaluated to see if they are eligible. The referral starts the Early On process. It occurs because of a concern about the child's development or health issue.
Once Early On receives a referral, your family will receive a notice that Early On has been contacted. This notice includes an Early On Parental Consent form asking your permission to evaluate your child for Early On services. The notice will also contain a copy of your family rights and procedural safeguards, including information about how Early On protects your confidentiality. To view copies of important forms, click on www.1800EarlyOn.org/family.
To support you throughout the process, your family will be assigned a service coordinator. He/She will be in charge of setting up the appointment for an evaluation. Your Early On team will look at how your child grows and learns (e.g. thinking, talking, moving, hearing, seeing, responding to others, and taking care of basic needs).
During this time, you will have the opportunity to talk about your child's growth and development since birth and your concerns. This may include information from your child's doctor or caregiver. The purpose of this evaluation process is to better understand the whole picture of your child.
Early On is for eligible children who need supports and services because they have what is called a "developmental delay " or a diagnosed disability, also known as an established condition. Established conditions could include health conditions such as a cleft palate, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, hearing and/or vision loss.
Having a developmental delay means it takes a child a little longer to learn basic skills. It may be in any of the following areas:
- Self-help skills (feeding and dressing)
- Cognitive skills (thinking, learning, and reasoning abilities)
- Communication skills (talking, listening, understanding)
- Physical development (vision, hearing, movement, health)
- Social-emotional development (feelings, getting along with others, relationships)
If your child is determined eligible for Early On, the next step in the process is the development of a plan, also known as the Individualized Family Service Plan.