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Parents & caregivers: Erie County Department of Health offers screening and services for children with developmental delays or disabilities

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Wed, Sep 2nd 2020 01:30 pm

Early intervention and preschool programs serve children from birth to age 5 with therapies and family supports

While much of Erie County is entering back-to-school season, the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) is sharing this update on services for the county’s youngest learners, from birth to age 5 years, who have developmental delays or disabilities.

“Every parent, every educational professional and every health care professional knows that every child is unique, and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach for the families in our programs,” Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said. “Our special needs division team works with families and providers to customize services to meet each child’s distinct learning needs.”

She continued, “For parents and guardians concerned about their child’s development, a call to our early intervention intake line at 716-858-6161 starts the screening and evaluation process.”

Pediatric and other primary care offices, hospitals, day care providers, and other caregivers can also make referrals, as long as parents are aware of the referral and do not object. Services are provided through the early intervention and preschool programs at no cost to families.

Early Intervention, Birth-3 years Old

The ECDOH special needs division’s early intervention program provides services to children with developmental delays and disabilities from birth to 3 years of age.

Children receive a multidisciplinary evaluation. If they meet eligibility criteria, an individualized family service plan (IFSP) is written to address the child and family’s needs. Services can include special instruction, speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy, and other disciplines indicated by the evaluation.

Preschool Program, 3-5 Years Old

The preschool program provides services to children with developmental delays and disabilities from 3 to 5 years of age. This program is administered through the local school districts in conjunction with the Erie County Special Needs Division.

Similar to the early intervention program, children receive a multidisciplinary evaluation. If they meet eligibility criteria, an individualized education plan (IEP) is written to address the child and family’s needs. As with the early intervention program, preschool services can include special instruction, speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy, and other disciplines indicated by the evaluation.

To refer a child to the preschool program, parents should contact the local school district where the child resides, and ask to make a referral to the committee on preschool special education through the district’s special education office.

“Like most educational programs, we have had to adapt our operations in response to COVID-19,” said Special Needs Division Director Mary Martin. “Since March, our programs have provided evaluations and services in the manner that meets the child’s needs while maintaining health and safety protocols, and we will continue to do so.”

“We are very grateful to the municipalities, school districts and nonprofit entities that collaborate with our office to find accessible spaces for providers to work with children. Accessing these facilities allows for a limited number of in-person services in a safe environment,” Martin added. “These facilities implement recommended health and safety measures that minimize COVID-19 risks to children, their families and service providers.”

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