Early intervention in the lives of children with special needs is critical to cognitive and educational development. Early intervention is the “best hope” with regards to improving the core behavioral symptoms of autism and each families overall dynamic. The benefits do not stop there, as early intervention often offers resources, support, and extensive training that will build a better connection between your family and child. Not all interventions are equal, however. Generic intervention programs are less effective when compared to specialized autism programs.
With regards to early intervention, it’s important to understand what resources are available, especially educational resources. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was enacted in 1975 and enforces public education for all eligible children and holds schools accountable for providing necessary services that will benefit children. Fully understanding the imperative legislature surrounding your child’s education can be a daunting task but can deliver added support.
To continue exploring the educational importance of early intervention in children with autism, IDEA provides children with disabilities a “free and appropriate” education. The word “appropriate” and its meaning is vital to interpreting the law. Although you and your child’s teachers or therapists may want to provide your child with the best and optimal programs and services, the school district is simply required to provide an appropriate education. The process to equipping your child with special needs with the best education possible is a collaborative process and significant negotiation may manifest.
Furthermore, IDEA entitles children with disabilities to the “least restrictive environment,” or LRE, in schools. Essentially, this law states that your child must be educated in regular classrooms, with non-disabled peers. They are supported with aids and services required to make this possible; the objective is to mimic a natural learning environment to further promote growth without much isolation.
Early intervention services (EI) for children under the age of 3 is offered through IDEA with many federal grants available to institute early intervention programs. The programs can range from state to state, however, the services should address your child’s needs and not be limited to what is currently available. Special education services for children ages 3-22 are also available through your local school district.