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Additional Early Services

While the Early Intervention Part C Program provides the main services for infants and toddlers with disabilities, there are additional government and private services available to help your child, especially if your child does not qualify for the Early Intervention program. Children can often be enrolled in more than one program since each program may have a slightly different focus and eligibility requirements. These programs are described below.

Public Early Services Programs

Early Head Start and Head Start Programs
Early Head Start and Head Start programs are federally funded and may also have some state or local funding. In addition to income eligibility, the programs have requirements to serve children with disabilities or developmental delays.
Early Head Start
  • Early Head Start programs have services for children from birth to age three who may be at risk for developmental delays and have low family income.
  • Early Head Start provides structured activities and educational play, health screenings, and family interactions to help children learn and grow skills.
  • They also offer parent classes and check developmental milestones.
Some Early Head Start providers may also be the designated Early Intervention providers for the area; this can be confusing at times, but can also be helpful for all children because it gives them an inclusive setting where they can play and learn with same-age peers.
Head Start
  • Head Start is available to children who turn 3 or 4 by September 1st of the current year.
  • The program takes part in in school-readiness curriculum that includes literacy, language, science, mathematics, and social-emotional development.
  • They also receive medical and dental services, have healthy meals and snacks, and enjoy playing safely in- and out-of-doors.
As well as education, family involvement is at the core of success. Head Start/Early Head Start families can take part in the classroom as volunteers, help with classroom projects, and even help develop curriculum.
If the child does not qualify for the Early Intervention program or the Early Head Start/Head Start programs due to income or disability, these programs can guide you to other resources that may be of help. You should also ask your child's doctor about other recommendations, and call your state family organizations, such as the Parent Training and Information Center, Parent to Parent Programs, Family Voices, or Family to Family Health Information Centers. These groups are the best place to learn about help in your area.
Public Programs That Work With Early Intervention Programs
Some states have other publicly-funded programs that serve young children. The programs will differ by state. Even though young children may not be in school yet, the special education director for the Local Education Agency (LEA), often a school district, can help parents find programs for pre-school age children.

Private Early Services Programs

Many non-profit and for-profit organizations also have programs for young children. For example, your child may benefit from working with a mental health professional that provides therapy for children with disabilities. Some preschools and child care providers may have skills in serving children with developmental delays. These groups may be more difficult to find than well-known government and non-profit organizations, but many of them offer great care.
One way to find these groups is word of mouth: ask other parents and your medical home for recommendations. You will want to research these programs with care to learn about eligibility, fees, and whether your health care plan will help to pay. Some health care plans do not cover care for specific disabilities and parents will have to pay out-of-pocket. Of course, you will also want to ask about staff qualifications and check references.

Pre-School Early Services

It is important to know that children with special needs may qualify for special education preschool. These 3- to 5-year olds are entitled to receive these services under the IDEA law if found eligible. If your child doesn’t qualify, or if you simply want to explore what’s out there that might better serve your child, there are other choices.
Children with special needs are likely to need extra support and more one-on-one teaching. There are many private preschools that are geared toward children with special needs, but preschool in any setting can help to give your child the structure and skills he or she needs to be ready for kindergarten and succeed in a school setting. You might start researching preschools on the web, by asking other parents, or even by asking your doctor or therapist, but you’ll want to make sure you find what is best for your child’s health and progress. Many private schools and public charter schools have a waiting list and are on a lottery system to enroll children from year to year; it’s a good thought to put your family’s name on the list as early as you can for the school you want. You can always cancel later if you have found something else.

Resources

Information & Support

For Parents and Patients

Center for Parent Information & Resources Locator
Parent Centers provide education and referrals for families with a child who has a disability, as well as the professionals who work with them. Each state has a parent center.

Family Voices
A national, nonprofit, family-led organization promoting quality health care for all children and youth, particularly those with special health care needs. Locate your center or F2F HIC (Family-to-Family Health Information Center) by state on this site.

State Part C Early Intervention Coordinators
Lists state contacts for Early Intervention (Part C) agencies and is an easy way to locate the person in charge of your state’s Early Intervention programs; National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA Center).

Parent to Parent USA
A national nonprofit organization that provides support to state Parent to Parent organizations; provides links to state organizations; provides a Matching Listserv to help organizations connect families to each other; and provides links to other organizations that serve families.

Learn the Signs. Act Early (CDC)
Offers many tools, videos, lists, learning materials, and an app to track a child’s developmental milestones (ages 2 months to 5 years) and act if concerned about progress; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Talaris Child Development Timeline
Provides a helpful, interactive timeline for parent’s to look at a child’s developmental milestones in different areas including physical, social, learning, and communication.

Services in Montana

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Early Childhood Education/Preschool

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Local Support Groups, Disability/Diag

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Prenatal/postnatal Home Visitation

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Special Needs Schools, Other

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Special Preschools

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Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: May 2013; last update/revision: January 2019
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Authors: Alfred N. Romeo, RN, PhD
Gina Pola-Money
Lynne M. Kerr, MD, PhD