Compliance Corner – April 2023

By Cindy Soo Hoo, TAP Consultant

C to B Because the Child Turned Three

Did you know children with disabilities who enroll in the public schools as preschoolers have likely received services as infants and/or toddlers?  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C provides services for eligible children prior to age three while Part B of IDEA provides services for eligible students ages three through twenty-one.

Enacted in 1986, IDEA Part C defines eligible children as those who have been diagnosed with a disability or those who may be at risk if services were not made available.

(34 CFR §303.5) At-risk infant or toddler

means an individual under three years of age who would be at risk of experiencing a substantial developmental delay if early intervention services were not provided to the individual. At the State’s discretion, at-risk infant or toddler may include an infant or toddler who is at risk of experiencing developmental delays because of biological or environmental factors that can be identified (including low birth weight, respiratory distress as a newborn, lack of oxygen, brain hemorrhage, infection, nutritional deprivation, a history of abuse or neglect, and being directly affected by illegal substance abuse or withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure).

(34 CFR §303.21) Infant or toddler with a disability

means an individual under three years of age who needs early intervention services because the individual –

(1) Is experiencing a developmental delay, as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures, in one or more of the following areas:

(i) Cognitive development

(ii) Physical development, including vision and hearing

(iii) Communication development

(iv) Social or emotional development

(v) Adaptive development; or

(2) Has a diagnosed physical or mental condition that –

                    (i) Has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay; and

                   (ii) Includes conditions such as chromosomal abnormalities; genetic or congenital                  disorders; sensory impairments; inborn errors of metabolism; disorders reflecting disturbance of the development of the nervous system; congenital infections; severe attachment disorders; and disorders secondary to exposure to toxic substances, including fetal alcohol syndrome.

Children under the age of three who have been determined eligible are able to receive a multitude of services at no cost to the parent to address deficits or delays in one or more of the five areas listed above.   These areas are addressed through special education and related services similar to those students who are covered by Part B of the Act.  They may include occupational therapy, speech-language pathology services, social work services, family training, counseling and home visits as well as nutrition services, to name a few.  The goal is to provide these services in the child’s natural environment, as appropriate, and with the involvement of the family.    

While Part B of IDEA focuses on the academic, developmental and functional needs of the student in an educational setting, Part C services emphasize the needs of the child and their family.  Linking families to resources, providing parents with training to assist them in working with their child and providing them with information about their child’s needs are just some of the goals of early intervention services.

Students covered under Part B of IDEA are provided an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which specifies the special education services, related services and other supports the student requires.  Children covered under Part C of the Act are provided an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) based on various assessments and evaluations and specifies the services and supports the child is to receive in order to address the deficits and/or delays the child exhibits. 

Families of children eligible under Part C are afforded the coordination of services determined necessary for their child.  A service coordinator provides case management responsibilities that may include assisting parents in obtaining access to needed early intervention services and other services identified in the IFSP; coordinating evaluations and assessments; coordinating, facilitating, and monitoring the delivery of services to ensure that the services are provided in a timely manner; and facilitating the development of a transition plan to preschool, school, or, if appropriate, to other services. 

Just as members of an IEP Team discuss the transition needs of students no later than when the IEP will be in effect when the student turns 14 (in the state of New Mexico), children transitioning from early intervention services to public schools require a Transition Conference.  This conference is scheduled, with the approval of the family, not less than 90 days of when the child is expected to transition to a public school setting or (at the discretion of all parties) not more than nine months from when the child will turn three.  Public school representatives and early intervention service personnel discuss any services the child may require under Part B.  The purpose of this transition conference is to ensure a seamless and smooth transition to the public school setting.

Early intervention services are centered on improving outcomes for children and their families.  Its focus on the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities address the deficits and delays the child exhibits and may possibly eliminate or reduce the continued need for such services as the child grows.  The relationship between Part C and Part B representatives as well as with the parent/guardian of the child is an important one.  Having consistent policies and practices in place is essential in ensuring a seamless transition from one agency to the other.  This seamless transition will assist parents/guardians in feeling more comfortable leaving the familiarity of Part C services when transitioning to the public school setting.   

The information included herein is not intended to provide legal advice.  Should you need legal advice or guidance on any issue involving special education, please contact the appropriate person for your district.

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