Families generally happy with initial early intervention services, study shows

CHAPEL HILL -- Most families of infants and toddlers with disabilities are generally happy with their initial experiences with early intervention services offered under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a new study shows.

In a nationally representative sample of 3,338 parents of young children with or at risk of disabilities, most of those entering early intervention services found the process satisfactory, say researchers at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Our data suggest that the early intervention system operated under Part C (IDEA) provides a positive and supportive entry into services for the vast majority of families enrolled in early intervention programs," said Dr. Don Bailey, lead author of an article on the study in the April issue of Pediatrics, a professional journal. Bailey also directs the institute.

"Families like early intervention professionals, report relative ease in participating in early intervention programs, believe that services are based on individual needs and feel that they have a role in making key decisions," he said. A few aspects of the process, however, warrant closer examination and possible changes, Bailey said.

"The average time of 5.2 months between diagnosis and referral seems unnecessarily long," he said. "Pediatricians should move from developmental surveillance to a more proactive model of developmental screening of infants and young children, followed by more prompt referral to early intervention."

Other findings from the survey are that:

  • A small percentage of families experienced difficulties accessing services, felt the amount of services received were inadequate, and 18 percent were not aware of a written plan for goals and services.
  • About 25 percent of children entered Part C services before 7 months of age.
  • Almost all families (97 per

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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