Being a new parent is hard. Babies don’t come with an instruction manual, unless you count Dr. Spock’s notorious Baby and Child Care book from the 1940’s. Kids also don’t come with a personal coach, ready to guide you in all the nuances of supporting your child’s development.
Or do they?
This is actually the concept of Early Intervention, a program created and funded by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). For children who are experiencing delays in their development or are born with conditions that are associated with delays, families can be paired with a professional “coach.” Depending on the needs, the coach may be a Speech and Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, Early Childhood Special Educator, or other trained professional. For children with complex needs, it may even be a whole team of coaches.
For obvious reasons, the Early Intervention (EI) program is very popular with families who participate. Their EI professional serves as that coach that all new parents desire, providing tools and resources for supporting a child’s development, assessing how the child responds, and adjusting the interventions to match the child’s progress and the family’s routines and priorities. Even better, the EI program is free to families. For children 0-3 who qualify, the costs are covered by private insurance, Colorado State funds, or the US Department of Education.
But initial entry into the program has historically been complicated and less than customer friendly. In Colorado, Early Intervention is managed by the Department of Human Services Office of Early Childhood, while the evaluations for all children 0-21 have been the responsibility of the Department of Education. For families, this has entailed being shuffled between systems several times before even beginning services.
In 2021, the Colorado State Legislature decided to try something new and shifted the responsibility of evaluations for kids birth to three years over to the Office of Early Childhood. Over the past year, state and local Early Intervention professionals have been designing a new system for evaluating young children with suspected delays. Starting July 1st, the official new evaluation process will be introduced statewide. At the same time, the Office of Early Childhood is moving to the Governor’s new Department of Early Childhood, combining all state programs for young children under one roof for the first time.
These changes at the state level have of course prompted changes at the local level. The local nonprofit Community Connections is transitioning into the role of providing early intervention evaluations for Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, and San Juan counties. Our hope is for a more seamless system for families to get involved with the Early Intervention program.
For more information about Early Intervention or to make a referral for children birth to three, contact Community Connections at 970-259-2464. For statewide referrals, contact the Office of Early Childhood at 833-733-3734. For children three and older, continue to make referrals to Durango 9R at 970-247-5411 (for students within the Durango 9R school district) or San Juan Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) at 970-247-3261 (for all other area school districts).
Serving Southwest Colorado's children
and adults with disabilities and
their families since 1985.
Main office: 281 Sawyer Drive, Suite 200, Durango, CO 81303
Cortez office: 105 S Harrison, Cortez, CO 81321
Pagosa Springs office: 301 N. Pagosa Blvd., Unit B-19, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147
Office hours: M-F 8am - 5pm. Access to a TDD system upon request
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