The first educational placement for a young child on the autistic spectrum is usually made through an Early Intervention program.241 The IDEIA provides federal grants to states that institute programs to provide early intervention services for children with disabilities, including autism. Any child younger than three years of age who has a developmental delay or a physical or mental condition likely to result in developmental delay is eligible to receive early intervention services. If your child is determined to be eligible, these early intervention services must be provided to you at no cost.
EI service offerings vary widely. They should, however, be determined by the child's needs, not just what happens to be available or customary in your area. The document that spells out these needs and the services that will be provided to meet them is the Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP), which should be based on a comprehensive evaluation of the child. The IFSP is a written document that describes your child's current levels of functioning and anticipated outcomes (goals) and enumerates the specific services that will be provided to meet the skill-based needs of your child and the needs of your family.
Early intervention services may be directed either toward your child or your entire family. Early intervention services for your child may include special instruction such as ABA, speech and language instruction, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and psychological evaluation. Early intervention services for families may include training to help the family reinforce or generalize the child's new skills and counseling to help the family adapt to the changed circumstances associated with having a disabled child. Early intervention services are aimed at minimizing the impact of disabilities on the development of your child.
For Early Intervention Services, if your child is under the age of three, call your local Early Intervention Agency.