Are you worried that your child isn’t speaking, playing with other children, or growing and developing in the same way as other children the same age? If so, your child may have a developmental delay. The good news is that all states are required by the federal government to help identify children with physical or emotional delays and provide help for them to grow and develop to their fullest potential. Research proves that the earlier we start helping children with delays, the less likely children are to need help once they start school.
Helping children when there is a concern about development starts with a process called Child Find. This process requires states to provide developmental screeners for all children with suspected disabilities from birth through age 21 at no cost to the families. Each state develops its own criteria for meeting the requirements of the law.
In many states the local public school district handles the entire Child Find process for any age. In other states, the path is different depending on the age of the child. The first step for any concerned parent or adult is to contact your local school district. If your district does not handle Child Find for infants and toddlers, the ECTA Center can help you find the name and contact numbers for the lead agency for infants and toddlers in your state.
Once the Child Find developmental screener has been completed, the results will only indicate if there is or is not a concern about development. If the screener indicates a concern in one or more areas, it means that it is important to take a closer look.
At that point, the screener can refer you to qualified professionals who will conduct a more extensive, comprehensive evaluation that examines all aspects of development. This evaluation must be completed within 45 days of parents or legal guardians giving written permission for the evaluation.
If the results of the evaluation identify a delay, then the child is eligible for services. Details of what these specialized services will be are written in what is called an Individualized Family Service Plan or the IFSP for infants and toddlers or the Individual Education Plan or the IEP for children three years and older.