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Calls to Action

The Earlier, the Better: Ensuring Access to Early Intervention and Preschool Services for Children with Autism

United States

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) mandates that children with disabilities ages birth to 3 receive early intervention (“EI”) services, and at age 3, transition seamlessly to special education services in their preschool classrooms. Many parents are unaware of the services that the state, and local school districts are required to provide before the 1st grade. Similarly, while school districts offer systematic special education programs for their students ages 6 and up; they often fail to have comparable, or appropriate, programs in place for students aged 3-5. A significant number of children with disabilities ages birth to 5 in Chicago, and across Illinois, are at risk by not receiving timely EI and preschool services.

Recent Changes in EI and Transition Federal Regulations Offer the Perfect Time and Opportunity to Raise Awareness about EI and Preschool Services. On 9/28/11, the US government published new regulations for EI services. The new regulations create new legal requirements, to such important areas as child find, evaluations, assessments, eligibility, and initial Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSP); IFSP development, implementation, and review; and transitions.

In conjunction with these new regulations, Equip for Equality seeks to implement a 1-year project to provide much needed education and self-advocacy assistance to the Chicagoland autism community. The first component of the project would consist of a series of at least five trainings in 2013 to families with children on the autism spectrum aged 1-5 to educate parents on their children’s legal rights regarding eligibility for, and development, implementation, and enforcement of IFSP’s. Secondly, we would focus on the transition from EI services to preschool services.

The second component of the project would be a toolkit consisting of a parent-friendly curriculum that would help families learn about and obtain appropriate EI and preschool services for their children. EFE would create and distribute to families and community organizations a toolkit that would include guides, sample forms, overviews, and legal fact sheets. The toolkit would not only provide helpful information about the services, but also strategies and tips for parents and other advocates.