Friday, November 16, 2007

Services - What's Available? Who Provides Them? How Do We Get Them?

The world from diagnosis to getting the intervention a child needs can be smooth. However, most parents do not consistently have that experience. The best solution is to educate ourselves as much as possible about the process and what is available so we can be prepared when others are not. Here's a brief rundown starting with getting the diagnosis (which determines services) and who provides what.

Note regarding services providers: Much of this information is based upon how services and supports are delivered in California. All states provides services for early intervention which can be located on line. All states provide services through the school districts, departments of mental health and the departments of parks and recreation. because of it's regional center system.

Note regarding Therapy, Services and Supports: There is a "Gold Standard of Therapy/Intervention". The Gold standard for young children with Autism provides these therapies weekly: Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, ABA (i.e. DTT, Teach, Pivotal Response) and Social Skills Training. SEE GOLD STANDARD FOR MORE INFO.

1. Get a diagnosis - This can be done at Autism Clinics' (UCLA, UC IRVINE, USC), Regional Centers, Schools, Developmental Pediatricians or Psychiatrist. Just make sure they have experience diagnosing children on the spectrum. .

They only need to call and ask for an evaluation. To find the Regional Center in the San Gabriel Valley (closest to them) just visit - Department of Developmental Services.

I recommend getting two diagnoses and in the case of diagnoses obtained by a source other than regional center or the school district the family needs to request treatment/therapy recommendations in writing. This can help avoid any confusion and disagreement about what services the child requires.

2. Get services based upon eligibility - If the child recieves a diagnosis of Autism the next step is to get a educational/treatment plan in place. This plan will primarily be funded by the regional center and the school district. The family needs to request an IEP* meeting from their local school and IPP from their local regional center.

In each of these meetings the conversation will be about what services the team believes the child needs based upon his diagnosis. All services provided by the school district and the regional center are FREE to families.

During these meetings the team (family and professionals) will determine what assessments need to be done for the child to determine his/her special needs and level of care. Both the schools and the regional centers get assessments done on the child before funding therapy or special education services.

3. What services and placements are available and who provides what?

Speech Therapy (Regional Center and Schools)

Occupational Therapy (Regional Center and Schools)

Physical Therapy (Regional Center and Schools)

ABA, Applied Behavioral Analysis (Regional Center and Schools

Social Skills (Regional Center)

Floortime (Regional Center)

RDI Therapy (Regional Center)

Music Therapy (Regional Center)

Art (Regional Center)

Infant Stimulation (Regional Center)

Recreational (Regional Center)

Respite (Regional Center)

Aids for Recreational Support (Regional Center)

Swimming (Regional Center)

Special Classroom placements with different levels of support (School District)

Non Public Schools (NPA’s) (School District)

Private Schools (where schools reimburse parents) (School District)

In school behavioral support (School District)

In school aids (School District)

LRE (least restrictive environment teacher) to modify/adapt curriculum (School District)

Resource Teachers (School District)

Auditory Processing (School District)

Note: before age 3 all services are provided by the regional center. At age three the regional centers and the school districts share the supports.

I have listed all services here that I have known to be available. This does not insure that each school or regional center will or can provide them. This is the challenge each family has to face. This is also why it is important to get a diagnosis and therapy recommendations from a professional outside of the school or regional centers when possible.

Again, these services are free to families.

4. How do I fill in the gaps?

There are times when we may be getting all that we need for our child and times when we are not. In the times when we are not we have to fill in the gaps and locate services at our expense. When it comes to recreational supports there are some national programs that all families can tie into that are low or no cost. For example:

Special Olympics

Department of Parks and Recreation

AYSO Soccer League


I find connecting with other parents in the area to find out what they have done to be the best resource, as each community is different.

5. Can my Health Insurance Help?

Check to see if your insurance has “mental health/behavioral health” coverage. Depending on the state you live in and your insurance carrier, you can obtain Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Behavioral Therapy. Because these services are covered by the “mental health/behavioral health” portion of your plan it’s important to see if you have this coverage.

*IEP - Individual Education Plan. This document is the legal contract between families and school districts that determines what special services or support the child needs. Anything not listed in this plan, will not be provided. So this plan is very important. You can look up information on the IEP and it's obligations under FAPE (Fair and Appropriate Education) on the internet. There's lot's of information regarding your legal rights related to this document and the IEP process.

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