One of the great things about Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education (EI/ECSE) services is that they are individualized based upon the needs of the child and the family. A child who experiences global developmental delays may require services in all areas, while others might only require services in just one or two areas, e.g., speech.
Children from birth to age three who qualify for services receive Early Intervention (EI) services, which are generally provided in the family’s home or in a childcare setting. These services are designed to help families understand their child’s disability and how they can best support their child. Using a parent coaching model, specialists focus on teaching the family strategies to promote the child’s development and learning throughout the day. Depending on need, children can receive speech and language therapy, behavior and social skills training, specialized equipment and materials, occupational therapy, and physical therapy services.
Children from age three to five who qualify for services receive Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) services, which are designed to promote learning and early skill development in early childhood educational settings. These services provide support, consultation and training to the teachers, caregivers and parents who work with children who experience developmental delays and disabilities. In addition to consultation and training, services may also include preschool classes, speech and language therapy, behavior and social skills training, specialized equipment and materials, occupational therapy, and physical therapy services.
Emphasis in ECSE services is given to serving children in inclusive settings where they are with their typically developing peers as much as possible. Specialists focus on the child’s lagging skills in order to increase the likelihood of success and readiness for kindergarten. Depending on the child’s need, these services may be provided in family homes, in community preschools like Head Start, Oregon Pre-K and Preschool Promise, or in specialized preschools that are operated by ECSE programs.
In 2009, legislators requested that the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) develop a model for what should be the “recommended level of service” that children should get in these programs depending on age and level of need. Unfortunately, the legislature has not been able to fully fund these programs at the recommended service level since that time. This creates challenges as these programs provide individualized services to all eligible children within set budgets that are already inadequate, and in addition they are also required to serve increasing numbers of newly eligible children that come into the programs within those same existing budgets.
The fact sheet
developed by the Oregon Alliance for Early Intervention for use during the 2017 legislative session (using data provided by ODE) highlights the disparity in the level of service being provided to young children versus the recommended level of service they should be receiving based on the 2009 ODE model. Here are just a few examples of what the data shows:
- Only 28.3% of children in Early Intervention receive the recommended level of service.
- Only 2.1% of high needs children in ECSE receive the recommended level of service.
Despite these funding challenges, the dedicated professionals and specialists who provide these life-changing services to children and families across the state do an incredible job helping Oregon children experiencing disability get ready for kindergarten and beyond.
In our next newsletter, we will be focusing on the outcomes these programs achieve. What we know already, even without looking at the data, is that when we invest early and enable children to receive these services, they have an increased potential for lifelong success!
For more information about EI/ECSE services, check out the following resources and information: