Most states across our country offer a program called Early Intervention to families that have children with disabilities and developmental delays. It is important that families with disabled children get involved in these programs because the whole family will benefit from the help that they offer. Recently the state of New Jersey began a program that requires parents to pay for these services based on their income. This change has caused many families to drop out of the program or hesitate in contacting them for services.
In previous years when a family got involved with the Early Intervention program that is offered in their state, they where given access too many different services for free. The services most often provided for children with disabilities where things such as occupational, physical and speech therapy as well as developmental intervention. Families where also able to meet with a social worker who would put them in touch with groups and organizations that deal with the specific disability that the family is facing. These services where available to children from birth to age three with a 33% delay in any area at no cost to the family.
Recently New Jersey introduced a Family Cost Share System that calculates a fee for services based on family size and income. A recent tax return must be submitted for each family so that the costs that they will incur can be calculated for each service rendered by the Early Intervention team. Each service that is required for the child has its own fee, and in the case of a severely disabled child the fees can really add up. Families are required to pay their bill on time, and if they miss two months of payments their child’s EI services will be suspended until payment is made.
It is important to start intervention early is because the earlier the intervention happens, the better the chances that the child will reach his or her full potential. It is proven that children learn more rapidly in their preschool years then at any other point in their lives, if early intervention is involved during this stage the child has a better chance of acquiring skills that at a later date will be harder to master. For these reasons alone it is imperative that families get involved as soon as any kind of delay or disability is detected, but with the new fee system the families might think twice before getting involved, even though it is so important to their child’s development.
The annual growth for the program has gone up by almost 20%, requiring more and more people to get involved so that everyone can get the services that they need. The amount of people and resources required to keep the program running has outpaced the federal funding that is provided by the Individual with Disabilities Education Act. This fact has lead to the need to start the family fee participation, but it limited to families whose income is 350% above the poverty level and is determined by a sliding fee scale.
The Early Intervention program is so important to disabled children and their families, it usually involves everyone and teaches them to deal with the challenges that go along with having a special needs child; they encourage mothers, fathers and siblings to get involved in therapy and activities. Rather then just focusing on the child with the disability this program helps the whole family learn how to cope with any issues that might arise from the mental or physical delays of the exceptional child. This can reduce the stress level in the family and give everyone realistic expectations for what they can accomplish as a family unit.
Lowering the stress level in a family with a disabled child and helping family members to feel more in control is very important, but adding a fee to the service could turn people away. Disabled children are often abused due to the stress that is involved with raising and caring for them, their families also have a higher rate of divorce and suicide, which can be significantly reduced by providing services. Having Early Intervention present in the home can help improve the outlook of the family and give them a better handle on what they are dealing with. It can also give them a better idea of what will happen with their disabled child in the future, quelling some fears that the parents may have and help them to understand that the child may one day become a productive member of society. The state provided services can offer help to families that might not have other options, and the fees need to be kept reasonable so that people will utilize them.
The hope is that by charging this small fee every family who needs help will receive it and that while the number of families participating continues to grow the services can be kept top notch. Hopefully in the future the federal funding will catch up to the need and families won’t have to pay to receive the services anymore. In the mean time, the sliding fee scale based on income seems a fair compromise to receive such excellent services.
I feel that this program is important because those who are involved in the program are offered a teaching experience for the whole family, which can help them to feel more in control. The program also provides information on how to access groups for families with special needs and exceptional children; this can help them to not feel isolated or alone. This program will help give the exceptional child more confidence in dealing with people outside their family so that they will have a better outcome in social settings later in life. The nominal fee seems like a small price to pay for so much peace of mind.
Getting families who have disabled children services that they need though Early Intervention is so important because it can help in so many different ways. The whole family will benefit from the services rendered by Early Intervention, as they will help lower stress levels and give the family better control and understanding of the situation. Paying the fee should only be a small part of the consideration a family makes when reviewing the program.