Early-Intervention Services in Georgia

Five Steps to Helping Your Child With Developmental Delays

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In Georgia, children under three years of age who have developmental delays may be eligible for early-intervention services through the state's Babies Can't Wait program, administered by the Department of Public Health. These five steps can help you find out about how early intervention works in Georgia and get your child started with needed services and supports.

  1. Consult with your pediatrician. To be eligible for early intervention in Georgia, your child will need to "have a diagnosed physical or mental condition which is known to result in a developmental delay, such as blindness, Down syndrome, or Spina Bifida; or have a diagnosed developmental delay confirmed by a qualified team of professionals," according to a FAQ on the program's site; you can also download a full list of qualifying diagnoses. Your doctor should be knowledgeable about these requirements and able to make the referral to Babies Can't Wait or give you the information necessary to do so. The importance of early intervention and the availability of these services is a good reason to urge your doctor to move past the "wait and see" phase and toward an identification of problems and needed therapies.
  1. Call Babies Can't Wait to request help for your child if your doctor or another professional has not done this for you. The state phone number is 1-888-651-8224, or you can download a listing of special-needs coordinators to find a contact in your area. Whoever you call, the staff member who answers should be able to get you started in applying to the program or answer any questions you or your family members may have about it. You might also contact the office of Parent to Parent of Georgia to talk to a parent educator about what you need to know to successfully advocate for your child, in early intervention and beyond.
  2. Your child will be evaluated by a team including speech, physical, and occupational therapists to develop an Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP) that determines the services your child will receive and where they will be delivered. Your goals and wishes should also be considered in the development of the plan, and you may be asked to fill out forms or attend interviews. To educate yourself about the IFSP process and what it involves in Georgia, download the procedural safeguards document from the Department of Health site.
  1. When you receive the IFSP, review it to make sure you agree with the services specified and the site at which they will be delivered. Your consent is required before the services can be delivered, and you have a right to turn down anything you disagree with or back out of the program altogether. According to a FAQ on the Babies Can't Wait program, services provided in the IFSP may include assistive technology; audiology; family training and counseling; occupational therapy; physical therapy; psychological services; social work services; special instruction; speech therapy; transportation services; vision services; nutrition services; and nursing services. Therapies should be provided in a natural setting which may include your home or a day-care center your child attends. Ask questions and make sure you understand everything mentioned in the IFSP before giving your consent.
  1. Service providers will be assigned to your child, and you can find out more about them through the FAQ on the Department of Health site. Collaborate with the therapists who will be working with your child, sharing insights from your experience and asking for suggestions on how you can continue the work your child is doing at home between sessions.