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Early Intervention Programs and Services

Programs provide special education and related services for children ages birth through five and their families. The documents below include information for families regarding the continuum of services for young children with autism and related disorders.

Early Intervention Services

Early intervention services are designed to provide a program of developmental intervention directly to the children with disabilities from birth to five years of age, to the parent, or both. Additional information regarding early intervention programs is available from the Office of Early Intervention Services at 410-313-7017 or by contacting Anne Hickey, Instructional Facilitator, at anne_hickey@hcpss.org or Jen Harwood, Instructional Facilitator at jennifer_harwood@hcpss.org.

Early Beginnings Program

The Early Beginnings Program serves children from birth to three years of age who have a developmental delay or who are at risk for developmental delay. The program is part of the Howard County Infants and Toddlers Program (HCITP), a coordinated, multidisciplinary, interagency system of services for infants, toddlers, and their families. Other agencies participating in the HCITP are the Howard County Health Department and the Howard County Department of Social Services. Every child who is birth through 2 years of age how is suspected to be eligible is evaluated to identify health and developmental needs in the areas of:

  • Hearing
  • Cognitive development
  • Speech
  • Social-Emotional development
  • Language
  • Self-help skills

Early intervention services are designed in the areas of physical, cognitive, communication, social or emotional, or adaptive development to address skill deficits and build school readiness. Early Beginnings Program staff members use a routines-based and activities-based intervention model to help parents learn and use techniques that will facilitate their children’s development. The services are provided in natural environments such as the child’s home, in child-care settings, or in community environments. Services that cannot address outcomes in natural environments may be provided in schools.

Early intervention services include:

  • Family education, counseling, and support
  • Early identification, screening, and assessment
  • Special instruction
  • Health services necessary for benefit from services
  • Speech-language pathology and audiology services
  • Community Health nursing
  • Occupational therapy
  • Social work services
  • Physical therapy
  • Vision services
  • Psychological services
  • Assistive technology devices and services
  • Service coordination
  • Nutrition services
  • Home visits
  • Transportation
  • Medical services for diagnosis or evaluation

A team is designated to work with the family to develop the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). The IFSP, which is developed for each eligible child, describes outcomes and activities that parents feel are important for the child and family. Outcomes reflect the changes families would like to see for their child based on needs. Parents and caregivers are active participants in developing IFSPs and implementing the intervention programs.

Eligible children may transition to preschool-kindergarten services and/or community services at age three. Some children may continue to receive services through the Extended IFSP Option up to the beginning of the school year after the child turns four.

Preschool-Kindergarten Program

The Preschool Program is a part of the Howard County Public School System’s Special Education Program. The program serves children three and four years of age who have a disability or developmental delay. Three and four year old children receive special education and related services in therapy-only sessions, four or five day preschool classes with typically developing peers or in community-based preschool programs where they have been enrolled by their parents. HCPSS preschool classes are included in Regional Early Childhood Centers located at elementary schools throughout the county.

Each child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) outlines goals and objectives developed by parents and professionals to address skill deficits and build school readiness. Team members provide instruction and therapy services using techniques that combine sound principles of early childhood special education, developmentally appropriate practices, and applied behavioral analysis. Active learning, child choice, highly motivating materials, and positive behavioral supports are key to facilitating children’s growth in developmental areas. Personalized programs are developed by school team members and parents to accelerate children’s development of language, literacy, mathematics, social interaction, and motor skills.

PALS: Community Based Preschool Services

The PALS program provides service to children with disabilities in the community-based preschool or childcare programs where their families have enrolled them. PALS special educators, therapists and Para educators support children and provide training for teachers and parents.

Multiple Intense Needs Classes

Toddlers and preschoolers who have moderate to severe needs in engagement, independence, communication and social interaction may receive services through Multiple Intense Needs Classes (MINC). These classes are located in Regional Early Childhood Centers throughout Howard County. Approximately six children with disabilities and six typically developing children are included in each class. Staff members use principles of applied behavior analysis to help children develop school readiness skills through teaching techniques such as incidental teaching, 3-step prompting, graduated guidance or errorless teaching. Instruction is systematically embedded into identified routines and activities to provide multiple opportunities for the children to practice skills. Other instructional strategies may be selected based on the developmental level of the child; the child’s learning style, strengths, and needs; and the skill or task to be learned. Family members actively participate in the children’s intervention programs. The focus of parent and caregiver training is on developing skills across environments and using incidental teaching and family guided routines-based intervention.Family Intervention Behavior Specialists may provide intensive training to families in implementing instructional and behavioral support plans.

Family Support Network

Family Support Network Coordinators are available to provide information, support, and linkages to community resources for families of children from birth through five years of age. In addition, they coordinate a parent training program as well as a parent mentor program which links “experienced” parents of children with disabilities with those parents of children who are new to the programs. Family members and staff members may contact the Family Support Network Coordinators at 410-313-7161.