September 8, 2011

by: LeafBridge Services Contributor

Making the Transition Out of Early Intervention Services

The Cuyahoga County Help Me Grow program is an Early Intervention program that provides services to expectant parents, newborns, and infants and toddlers with or at-risk for developmental delays or disabilities. The program guides parents to access supports and services needed for their child to achieve optimal growth and development. Through the development of an Individualized Family Service Plan, the staff member and parents work together to identify the needs and goals for the family. Development of the IFSP in most circumstances includes a developmental screening and evaluation to determine if the child is experiencing any developmental delays. The staff then works with the family to help them navigate services and community resources. Children who have a developmental delay or disability are linked to a variety of specialized services in the community. These services could include: occupational, physical, speech/language therapies; developmental or specialized instruction; health, nutrition, hearing, vision, counseling, and assistive technology. An essential component of the Help Me Grow process is to assist the family and child to transition from Help Me Grow services into a suitable preschool program at the age of three.

UCP Case Manager and Early Intervention Service Coordinator Michele Kromer offers insight on the transition process and what to expect.

When a child enters the Help Me Grow Early Intervention Services Program at UCP, age three seems so far away, but as all experienced parents know, that time flies by.  Early Intervention Services assists families with children from birth to age three, with the transition process from Early Intervention Services into a preschool program starting around age two and a half.  Many times this is a period of both excitement and anxiety for parents. As a Service Coordinator, I have written goals with families for years, but I have found that the most difficult one for them to write is what they want for their child when they turn three and leave Help Me Grow.  The thought of leaving the support of Help Me Grow often causes mixed feelings.  Some families embrace it and others are resistant and don’t want to let go of the service coordinators that have been working with their child since they were born. At UCP, our coordinators work to make this transition go as smoothly as possible, keeping the best interests of the child and family at the heart of our work.  UCP Service Coordinators are alongside the families throughout the transition process and can be as involved as much or as little as the family wants.  The coordinator is able to educate the family on the process, allowing them to feel empowered. If the family chooses, the coordinator can also be there every step of the way, attending every evaluation, meeting and even sometimes the first day of preschool! Things to keep in mind when approaching the transition from Help Me Grow to preschool:

1. Know your rights. If you are unsure, have a discussion with your EI Coordinator early in the process. Some potential questions you might ask as you prepare for the transition are:

  • What are the differences between early intervention and preschool services?
  • How will our child’s eligibility for this specific preschool program be determined?
  • What are the different ways services can be provided?
  • Whom do we contact if we want to visit a program or classroom?
  • How can we help professionals understand the unique strengths and needs of our child?
  • When will we meet next?

2. Be an advocate for your child! You know your child and are in the best position to understand what their individual needs are, so don’t be afraid to stand up for them! Refer to a previous UCP blog post on Being a Good Advocate  for a crash course on advocacy.

3. Utilize your EI Coordinator’s experience and knowledge. The transition process as well as your child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting can be intimidating, but remember that these meetings are the appropriate and best times to get the supports your child needs. Prepare for the meeting with your Service Coordinator and invite them to come with you to meetings if you would like their assistance. UCP Service Coordinators consider this an essential part of our services to your family!

4. Most importantly—ASK QUESTIONS!  If you are unsure about anything during the transition or IEP process, be sure to ask questions. Although not deliberately, the individuals participating in your child’s IEP meeting have most likely been through the IEP process many times and they may move through things quickly, assuming that you understand the proceedings. Don’t be afraid to stop and ask questions if you don’t understand something or disagree.

UCP Service Coordinators are here to ensure your child has the best start in life possible.  If you are currently participating in the Early Intervention Program at UCP and have questions or concerns about the transition process into preschool, contact your Service Coordinator.  You can access the UCP employee directory for their individual contact information.

 If you are pregnant or have a child under the age of three and are interested in participating in the Help Me Grow program, please contact Children and Family Services Manager Celia Chesnick at (216) 791-8363, ext. 260 or for more information.

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