Young children (ages birth – 5 years old) who are not developing typically, are eligible to receive services such as physical, occupational and speech therapy.
Federal law mandates that these services be made available to all children in an appropriate and timely manner. Infants and toddlers can receive services via the Early Intervention program and preschoolers via the Preschool Special Education program.
New York State’s Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education programs are covered under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This 1986 legislation, built on an earlier law, ensures that children with disabilities are given an appropriate education that meets their specific individual needs. Covered services include physical, occupational and speech therapies, instruction for children who are deaf or blind, feeding and nutrition guidance, social-emotional support, service coordination and individualized planning.
Federal and state law and regulation detail the particular types of services and timelines within which services and evaluations must begin. Unfortunately, throughout New York State these timelines are routinely violated because there are not enough therapists and service providers to meet the demand. Even more concerning is the fact that in some counties, the process of identifying young children’s needs at an early stage, when an intervention could have the biggest impact on their healthy development, is stalled because of the lack of providers.