Early Intervention

Navigating Disagreements with Early Intervention

By Magda Labonté and Eliyanna Kaiser

Getting an Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP) for an infant or toddler isn’t usually as contentious as the process for preschool and school-age children can sometimes be, but there are times when a parent strongly disagrees with something Early Intervention (EI) decides or when a child experiences an unacceptable gap in services. 

Our office represents parents who are at loggerheads with EI. It can be valuable to consult with an attorney while considering the best strategy for exercising your due process rights. Some tactics may produce better outcomes.

A common problem we are asked about arises when a parent disagrees with a proposed IFSP (in part or whole). We also hear from many parents about unacceptable delays in the provision of services (no more than 30 calendar days after signing consent to initiate is the law). Other situations that pop up include when a child needs a new service that EI is refusing to provide; when an IFSP provides for a service, but not enough of it; or when a parent’s request to modify an IFSP in some other way is denied.

In all of these situations, the first step is to express your concerns to your service coordinator. They may be able to resolve some problems.  If your service coordinator isn’t responsive, or you don’t feel they are doing their job properly, you can switch service coordinators (and agencies) at any time. You also have the right to file a “system complaint” against your service coordinator and anyone else who works for EI, including service providers, evaluators, and the Early Intervention Official (administrator) assigned to your child’s case. For more information, see the NYS Department of Health’s publication, Early Intervention Steps: A Parent’s Basic Guide to the Early Intervention Program.

There are, of course, some problems that even the most dedicated service coordinator will be unable to fix. In those situations, you have due process rights. You have both the right to request mediation or to file an impartial hearing request. If you retain an attorney, you will not be able to recover legal fees unless you go through mediation first. 

Some parents decide to privately obtain services through independent providers and then file an impartial hearing request seeking reimbursement. Lawyers may recommend that parents obtain private evaluations to support their claims in these (and other) cases. 

Early Intervention is designed to provide services at a time when your child will receive a tremendous benefit. Don’t let disagreements interfere with this; this critical period will be over in the blink of an eye.

Early Intervention

Although the majority of our work involves helping children who are 3 and older, we cannot tell you how often we hear heartbreaking stories of parents who did not know they were entitled to FREE EARLY INTERVENTION (“EI”) services.  Or we meet parents who were aware that EI existed, but they were told by EI officials that their clearly struggling child was “ineligible.”   In fact, it shocks us how many of these clients whose parents say they were turned down by EI, are later diagnosed with a myriad of disorders, including Autism.   

As a Parent, you have the right to a comprehensive evaluation of your child - this is called a MULTIDISCIPLINARY EVALUTION (MDE), and is defined below.  And if your child is not deemed eligible, you have the right to fight that determination.  As you would expect, time is of the essence because your child is only eligible for EI services for such a short period of time, so we want to reach as many of you as early on as possible, so that you can successfully navigate the EI process.   

To this end, we are currently working on a sequel to Regina’s popular “How to Survive Turning Five” entitled “How to Survive EI”…. Stay tuned! 


                REFERRING YOUR CHILD IS EASY and takes seconds

So don’t put it off!

Professionals such as doctors can refer your infant or toddler to the EIP, unless you object, when there is a concern about your child’s development. If you have a concern, you can also refer your child to the Early Intervention Program in the county where you live. County contacts can be found online at: www.health.ny.gov/community/ infants_children/early_intervention/county_eip.htm Or, you can call the “Growing Up Healthy” 24-hour Hotline at 1-800-522-5006; in New York City dial 311