Early Start

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1. Who is eligible?
Infants and toddlers from birth to age 36 months may be eligible for early intervention services through Early Start if, through documented evaluation and assessment, they meet one of the criteria listed below:
  • have a developmental delay of at least 33% in one or more areas of either cognitive, communication, social or emotional, adaptive, or physical and motor development including vision and hearing; or
  • have an established risk condition of known etiology, with a high probability of resulting in delayed development; or
  • be considered at high risk of having a substantial developmental disability due to a combination of biomedical risk factors of which are diagnosed by qualified personnel
California Government Code: Section 95014(a)

California Code of Regulations: Title 17, Chapter 2, Section 52022

2. What early intervention services are available?
Based on the child's assessed developmental needs and the families concerns and priorities as determined by each child's Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) team, early intervention services may include:
  • assistive technology
  • audiology
  • family training, counseling, and home visits
  • health services
  • medical services for diagnostic/evaluation purposes only
  • nursing services
  • nutrition services
  • occupational therapy
  • physical therapy
  • psychological services
  • service coordination (case management)
  • social work services
  • special instruction
  • speech and language services
  • transportation and related costs
  • vision services
3. Who makes the referral for early intervention services?
Anyone can make a referral, including parents, medical care providers, neighbors, family members, foster parents, and day care providers.

The first step that parents may take is to discuss their concerns with their health care provider/doctor. You can also call the local regional center or school district to request an evaluation for the child.

If the child has a visual impairment, hearing impairment, or severe orthopedic impairment, or any combination of these, contact the school district for evaluation and early intervention services. After contacting the regional center or local education agency, a service coordinator will be assigned to help the child's parents through the process to determine eligibility. Parent-to-parent support and resource information is also available through Early Start Family Resource Centers.

4. What happens after a referral?
Within 45-days the regional center or local education area shall:
  • Assign a service coordinator to assist the family through evaluation and assessment procedures.
  • Parental consent for evaluation is obtained.
  • Schedule and complete evaluations and assessments of the child's development.
  • If an infant or toddler is eligible for early intervention services, an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) will be developed that addresses the strengths, and needs of the infant or toddler, parental concerns, and early intervention services.
  • Identify early intervention services that are provided in the family home or other community settings
5. Who provides services?
Early intervention services that are needed for each eligible infant or toddler are purchased or arranged by a regional center or a local education agency.

Family Resource Centers provide family support services.

6. How much does it cost?
There is no cost for evaluation, assessment and service coordination. Public or private insurance is accessed for medically necessary therapy services including speech, physical and occupational therapies. Services that are not covered by insurance will be purchased or provided by regional centers or local education agencies.

An Annual Family Program Fee may be assessed in some circumstances.

7. How do I find out more?
Call your local regional center, local educational agency, or family resource center for resource information or a referral to Early Start services.

If you need additional information about how to get Early Start services call (800) 515-BABY or e-mail us at earlystart@dds.ca.gov.
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