Caring for a newborn or toddler is challenging in the best of times. Trying to navigate the system of disability-related supports and services while caring for your newly diagnosed baby can be overwhelming. However, a young child’s diagnosis helps to unlock a system of home-based services and supports, known as early intervention, that are specifically designed for children 0-3 years old.
Early Intervention – The Basics
Early intervention (also known as Family-Centered Early Supports and Services or FCESS) provides comprehensive evaluations and services for infants and young children with developmental disabilities, including autism. Early intervention services take place in a child’s home or other location where the child spends time so that the child and their caregivers can better actively participate. Services and supports can include service coordination as well as:
- Vision and hearing services
- Speech, physical, and occupational therapy services
- Nutrition counseling & assessment
- Assistive technology/Equipment (evaluation, acquisition, & training)
- Transportation & mileage reimbursement when appropriate to receive services
Although insurance may be charged, early intervention services are provided free of charge to the child and family. See t for more information including a comprehensive list of supports and services.
Learn More: Parent Information Center’s Family Guide to Family-Centered Early Supports and Services (FCESS)
How to Access Supports & Services Through Early Intervention
Early Intervention supports and services are provided through NH’s Area Agency system. There are ten area agencies throughout the state and you can find the nearest one to you at www.dhhs.nh.gov/dcbcs/bds/agencies.htm.
Anyone can refer a child to an area agency for an evaluation. Oftentimes a child will be referred by a parent or primary caregiver or a medical provider. Once the referral has been made, area agency staff have 45 days to complete an evaluation, determine eligibility, and create an Individualized Family Support Plan (IFSP) if your child is eligible for services.
Transitioning Out of Early Intervention/FCESS
Once a child turns 3, they are no longer eligible for early intervention. At the age of 3, a child may be eligible for other community-based services such as outpatient therapy, continued area agency support, and/or special education services from their community preschool program. Not all children who receive early intervention services qualify for preschool special education or area agency services – each program has its own eligibility criteria. As part of the transition planning process, your Service Coordinator will discuss the child’s options with you and help you to review and plan for the child’s transition out of early intervention. This transition plan should be included in the Individualized Family Support Plan (IFSP). Transition planning should begin when the child turns 27 months, or earlier if they are found to no longer be eligible for early intervention.
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DRC-NH Know Your Rights: Early Intervention Flyer)  => Array ( [resource] =>
NH Family Voices – Early Intervention)  => Array ( [resource] =>
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Disability RAPP Fall 2019: Big Dream for Little Ones – Birth to Three)  => Array ( [resource] =>
DRC-NH/LEND Article (Feb 2022): Spotlight on Early Intervention)  => Array ( [resource] =>
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Having knowledge about what resources are available and how to access these systems is essential when navigating the difficult and complex world of parenting a young child with disabilities. There are many resources families can look to for assistance during the first few years of their child’s life:
‘Maneuvering the Maze’ (a NH Family Voices publication)
https://www.fsnh.org/Family Resource Connection: Family Support NH – Home (fsnh.org)
If You Need Help
Contact us if you have specific questions about FCESS/early intervention services or other disability related programs.