Understanding Early Steps

Do you have a child between the ages of birth to three who has been identified by your pediatrician or therapist as benefitting from further early intervention? Have they mentioned Early Steps to you as an additional source of early intervention support, but you are not sure how to begin the process?

Special thanks to Collaborative Corner and their help in providing this resource.

Early Steps is Florida’s early intervention system that offers services to eligible infants and toddlers, age birth to 36 months, who have or are at-risk for developmental disabilities or delays. Early intervention supports families and caregivers to increase their child’s participation in daily activities and routines that are important to the family.

Early Steps is often referred to as “Part C.” This label is utilized because it is the section of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that addresses providing free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities who are under the age of three. Part B is the section of the law that addresses transition to the school district that begins at age three.

Who Is Eligible?

Children from birth to three years old who meet eligibility criteria that is NOT based on income.

Your child is eligible for Early Steps services if your child has an established condition that falls into one of the following areas:

• Genetic and Metabolic disorders

• Neurological disorders

• Autism spectrum disorder

• Severe attachment disorder

• Sensory impairment (vision or hearing)

• Infants who weigh less than 1200 grams at birth

Testing to Determine Eligibility:

Your child must demonstrate a delay of 1.5 standard deviations below mean in 2 areas of testing or 2.0 standard deviations belie mean in one area.

Areas tested include:

• Cognition

• Physical Skills (including vision, hearing, gross and fine motor skills)

• Communication

• Social/Emotional

• Adaptive/Self-Help

Services offered may include:

• Audiology

• Assistive Technology

• Early Intervention Services

• Occupational Therapy

• Physical Therapy

• Speech Therapy

Where are services provided?

Early Steps seeks to offer services in the natural environment meaning where you live, learn and play (i.e. your home or your child’s daycare). The goal is to bring services into your child’s life rather than fitting the child into services. This also maximizes each child’s everyday natural learning opportunities.

The Process

• Referral to the program (from a physician or therapist)

• Within 5 days, initial contact is made via the phone

• A family assessment/screening will be scheduled to be conducted at your home

• Within 45 days of the assessment/screening, the initial evaluation will be completed at their clinic

• If your child qualifies for services, an Individualized Family Support Plan (IFSP) is developed and services will begin within 30 days of the date the IFSP is signed

• Every 6 months, the multidisciplinary evaluation team determines if further services are warranted

• 90 days before your child turns three years old, transition planning begins to the local school district

• All Early Steps services are terminated the day before the child’s 3rd birthday

Transition Process

The transition process from Part C to Part B is expertly explained here. The transition process occurs to support entrance into kindergarten with the appropriate services your child needs for overall academic success.

Early Steps is a payor of last resort. This means that they will pay for therapeutic services if you qualify, AFTER primary payors (i.e. your insurance company). Because they are a payor of last resort, you would not be responsible for paying your copay for services received.

Early intervention is key. Intervention is likely to be more effective and less costly when it is provided earlier in life rather than later. If you need support in contacting your local Early Steps office, click here.

For additional questions, you can contact susan@collaborativecorner.org or any therapist on Collaborative Corner’s panel at www.collaborativecorner.org.


Susan Robins, PT
Pediatric Physical Therapist
susan@collaborativecorner.org

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