In October 1986, the United States Congress passed Public Law 99-457, which amended The Education of the Handicapped Act and also authorized provision of services to children with disabilities ages birth to three. The existing law had already addressed services for children ages three through twenty one.

algorithym-part-cStates were given the flexibility to determine which state government agency would have responsibility for implementing this new portion of the law. In Ohio, that responsibility was assigned to the Ohio Department of Health through the Help Me Grow initiative. Ohio’s Part C/early intervention system (aka Help Me Grow) aims to identify and serve children under the age of three with developmental delays and disabilities. Throughout Ohio’s 88 counties, local Help Me Grow programs communicate with parents, doctors, hospitals, child care providers, and other community agencies to identify children with existing developmental delays, or those with medical diagnoses with a high probability of delay.

Parents and caregivers with concerns regarding their child’s development can have their infant or toddler evaluated by an interdisciplinary team at absolutely no cost to the family. Children are evaluated for delays in the areas of adaptive, cognitive, communication, physical, and social-emotional development using appropriate diagnostic tools. Should intervention be deemed necessary, individualized services are provided to the child and family through a service coordinator who guides the family through every aspect of the process, from program entry until the child transitions out by age three.

More than 50 years of research has demonstrated the benefits of early identification and early intervention for infants and toddlers with disabilities. Historically, the decision to provide special education services has been based on a “wait to fail” approach (i.e., wait until a discrepancy presents itself, then develop a plan for addressing the discrepancy in hopes of bringing the student back to the educational level of his/her peers). In most cases, a reactive, as compared to a preventative, approach is ineffective at providing targeted services and supports necessary for the student to access and progress through grade/peer-level content and meet age/grade-level benchmarks.

For children with sensory disabilities, the early years may be more critical than for children with other disabilities, as visual and auditory senses are so critical for their growth and development. Making the appropriate contacts with service providers is crucial so that the provider and parents/family, can work together to build the child’s skills and provide him/her with experiences that will support learning and development.

Please refer to the Tools and Resources tab of the website to locate applicable resources in your area.