Free Services in NYC For Kids With Developmental Delays

One of the joys of being a parent is all the firsts: first smile, first steps, first words, first tower proudly built of blocks (and being joyfully knocked down). But what if your child isn’t hitting these milestones? In NYC, if a developmental delay or disability is suspected, your child may be eligible for free services and therapy.

Developmental delays include areas where your child’s progress is behind, compared to typical expectations for their age, such as communication or growth. It also includes delays arising from a physical disability and/or mental condition, such as autism or hearing impairment.

While it’s great that NYC offers a range of evaluation and treatment services, navigating the system for the first-time can be daunting. Here is a summary of the processes involved for kids aged up to 5.

baby toddler standing at stool taking first steps

For Kids Aged 0-3 Years:

Early Intervention Program
Kids from birth to age 3 are covered by the Early Intervention Program (EIP), a division of NY State Department of Health.

Getting A Referral to Early Intervention (EIP)
If you are concerned about your child’s development, talk to your pediatrician and they may recommend an EIP evaluation to determine where your child’s development sits on the curve for their age.

You can initiate a referral to EIP by calling 311 and asking for Early Intervention. You can also complete a referral form on the EIP site, however the form must be faxed to NY Health and the instructions on the form are not very clear.

You’ll be assigned a Service Coordinator, who will meet with you to explain the process and complete the paperwork with you.

Eligibility & Evaluations
To determine if your child is eligible for services through EIP, an evaluation will be conducted.  An evaluation agency will be assigned and at least 2 evaluators from different domains will separately evaluate your child.

The evaluations take place in whichever environment you designate, typically where your child spends most of his or her time, such as your home or their childcare setting.

Evaluation Outcome: Eligible for Services
If the evaluation deems your child eligible for services, an Individualised Family Service Plan (IFSP) meeting will be held to determine the goals and services for your child. Your Service Coordinator will put you in touch with the therapists. Services take place in the environment you nominate, such as your home or the childcare setting. Your Service Coordinator will keep in touch with you and you’ll have periodic IFSP meetings to review your child’s progress and authorize continuation of services.

Evaluation Outcome: Not Eligible for Services
If the evaluation deems your child not eligible for services, you have the option of pursuing therapy privately through your insurance. You can also submit a subsequent referral to EIP at a later time, for example when your child is older and you are still concerned about a possible delay.

little boy reading book

For Kids Aged 3-5 Years:

Committees on Preschool Special Education
Children from age 3 to 5 are covered by the Committees on Preschool Special Education (CSPE), a division of NYC Department of Education.

Getting A Referral to CPSE
If your child has been receiving services through EIP, when they approach age 3, your Service Coordinator can assist you with initiating a referral with CPSE. Otherwise the NYC Department of Education site lists the contact numbers to initiate a referral with CPSE for your school district.

Eligibility & Evaluations
The CPSE evaluation takes place at an approved evaluation site, such as a school or an approved therapy center. The evaluation will typically include multiple assessments, such as an assessment of the domain of concern, a psycho-educational assessment, a classroom observation (if your child is attending pre-school).

Evaluation Outcomes: Eligible for Services
If the evaluation deems your child eligible for services, a CPSE meeting will be held to determine goals and services for the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). Services will take place at an approved therapy center. Refer to the CPSE Family Guide for more details on evaluation outcomes.

For More Information:

Overview of EIP and CPSE
Parents’ Guide to Early Intervention
Family Guide to CPSE

It’s reassuring to know that NYC offers free therapy and other services for kids with developmental delays who qualify. Although there is great variation in child development, you know your child best of all and it never hurts to discuss your concerns with your pediatrician.

Author: Angela Tohl

Adelaide-born Angela came to New York in search of the ultimate adventure, by way of Australia and Japan. She juggles technical and copywriting projects, with chasing her kids around (usually on roller skates). Find Angela on Twitter @angelatohl and at Image credit: Susie Lang

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