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Education Programs for Cerebral Palsy

Disabled child in classroomKids born with cerebral palsy generally have a host of special educational needs and requirements that should be when it comes to basic things such as school and child care. Fortunately, in the United States we have a high quality special education system for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. This page will review the basic educational services and other benefits available under this system and other supplemental assistance programs.

Early Intervention Services

The term “early intervention” refers to certain public educational support services that are available for infants and toddlers with certain developmental delays and disabilities such as cerebral palsy. The early intervention (EI) program is actually part of the federal education assistance system mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1975. IDEA requires state public school systems to identify children with special needs and provide them with certain support services for which the states receive large amounts of federal funding. One of the support service programs required by IDEA is the EI program.

The EI program offers free developmental services to certain qualified children 0-3 years old. Infants and toddlers can become qualified for the EI program in one of 2 ways:

  1. Parents with concerns can request that their child be evaluated for developmental delays. If the testing and evaluation determines that the child is developmental delayed they will be approved for the program. Pediatricians will often refer children for EI evaluation but any concerned parent can have their child tested and assessed on request.
  2. Children who are diagnosed by doctors with certain birth injuries or disorders that are known to cause developmental delays or cognitive impairment will be automatically qualified from EI services based on solely on that diagnosis.

A diagnosis of cerebral palsy will automatically qualify a child for the EI program without testing or evaluation. The following link provides information on state specific eligibility requirements: State EI Programs.

Early intervention programs are administered by the state and services are typically provided through the local school system or in some states they are contracted out to private companies. Individual EI services are provided in various settings (e.g., at home, daycare, clinics, etc.) depending on the child’s needs and situation. The preliminary assessment testing and evaluation are entirely free and most EI services are also provide entirely free of charge. However, some states do assess small fees for families who have household income over a certain level.

A very broad range of distinct services are offer under the EI program. The specific services provided through the EI program will vary depending on the unique needs and requirements of each child. Once a child is admitted into the EI program parents have an initial meeting with program providers at which time a customized support plan and developed based on the evaluated needs of the child and what services they might benefit from. The customized service plan is called an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). The primary categories of support services offer through early intervention programs include:

  • Physical Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Medical / Nursing Assistance
  • Speech Development
  • Education Assistance
  • Social Services
  • Nursing Care
  • Counseling for Parents
  • Nutritional Counseling
  • Mobility Devices
  • Assistive Technology
  • Transportation

Children who are evaluated and assessed with limited, specific developmental needs may only receive 1 of these services. For example toddlers with speech delays will typically just receive speech development therapy. Children with any type of cerebral palsy, however, will typically be provided the full range of EI services. The physical and occupational therapy services available through EI can be very beneficial at helping children with CP.

Educational Services for Children Over 3

For the first 3 years children with cerebral palsy can receive support services through the EI program. Children older than 3 years fall under different IDEA programs which are usually described as Individualized Education Programs (IEP) and Special Education. Special education programs provide children with one-on-one teaching and other special educational resources (e.g., speech therapy). Special education is provided to children within their public school but new program rules prevent them from being isolated in a special class so they remain in a regular classroom setting most of the time. Most children with cerebral palsy will meet the qualification criteria for special education services. The IEP is a customized support service plan similar to the IFSP but for children over 3 years old.

Daycare and Preschool Programs

Kids with cerebral palsy often need to be in daycare and/or preschool just like other toddlers and young children. The problem is that many young children with cerebral palsy have significant special needs that cannot always be accommodated at standard daycares. Most states have programs that provide special funding to childcare centers that are certified to provide care and services to children with disabilities and special needs. Moreover, children with IEPs are automatically entitled to free enrollment in state sponsored preschool programs. These preschools are usually provided through the local public school.

Do You Need a Cerebral Palsy Lawyer?

If you suspect your child’s cerebral palsy may have been the result of medical error or negligence during labor and delivery or pregnancy, contact the birth injury lawyers at Miller Zois. Call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.

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