Social Services

Below is a summary of the some of the services available to your child with DS. For more complete information, you can contact the Centre County government offices for MH/MR, or the county social services office.

Office of Mental Health / Mental Retardation (MHMR)

Early Intervention Information for Parents

Early Intervention works best when it is part of a family's daily routine and activities occurring in the context of a family's every day life. Daily relationships and experiences provide children with rich learning opportunities; yet when a child has a developmental delay, it often impacts how the child is able to learn from these everyday experiences. For eligible children (children with a diagnosis of DS are automatically eligible), early intervention supports families in identifying new and existing activities that help their child's development and make these experiences successful. When families identify the routines and activities that their child enjoys or has difficulties with, early intervention has a natural context in which to work. This approach is the most effective way to promote your child's development.

Your Involvement is Important!

The opportunities your child has to play and learn with family and friends (sisters, brothers, grandparents, neighbors, etc.) are important to your child's growth and development. The role of the early intervention professional is to help you and your child meet the goals you have identified within the experiences your child has on a daily basis. The early intervention staff could never impact your child the way sisters, brothers, grandparents, neighbors, friends and childcare teachers do. We see your child only a small portion of the hours your child is awake each week, so it is important that we help you and the other people that care for your child learn what to do to help your child grow and develop.

This means...

You are an important part of the early intervention process. You will work with a service coordinator and other early intervention professionals to develop a plan that best meets the needs of your child and family. Your input will drive how services and supports are provided, and you will learn what to do to help your child grow and develop.

Early Intervention is for Children Birth to Age of Beginners

Early intervention services are provided to children with developmental delays or children at risk of developing a developmental delay. Services are provided to children from birth until they begin school if they continue to have developmental delays. Services are provided through the Centre County Early Intervention Program until your child turns 3. If your child continues to have a delay, your services will be provided through the Central Intermediate Unit's Preschool Program.

What is Early Intervention?

Early Intervention is the practice of identifying and addressing developmental delays, disabilities, and special needs of children and the needs of their family in early life. The goal is to help you help your child to develop to his/her fullest potential.

Children eligible for early intervention services through the Centre County program are infants and toddlers who have an identified 25% developmental delay or disability in at least one of the following areas:

    Physical development including vision and hearing
  • Cognitive development
  • Sensory development
  • Communication development
  • Social-emotional development
  • Adaptive development

Children can also be declared eligible for the early intervention program based on a determination by an Early Intervention professional that there is a delay, even though it doesn't show up on the assessments (called informed clinical opinion). Children can also be declared eligible based on the diagnosis of known physical or mental conditions that have a high probability for developmental delays (such as DS).

Where are Early Intervention Services Provided?

Early intervention services are provided in a child's natural environment. This means that the early intervention professionals can provide services to your child in your home, the childcare setting, even the neighborhood park and playground. Early intervention can go wherever your child spends time.

What is a Service Coordinator?

You will begin working with a Service Coordinator as soon as your child is referred for early intervention services. Such a referral should be sought through your pediatrician’s office. A Service Coordinator is a person on the early intervention team that will work in collaboration with you to:

  • seek services for your child and family;
  • coordinate services with you and other professionals;
  • facilitate team meetings;
  • coordinate medical services, when needed; and
  • make sure early intervention services are delivered to your satisfaction.

Your Service Coordinator has experience working with families of children with special needs. Your Service Coordinator is also knowledgeable about the services available in your local area and how you can obtain them.

What should I expect from my Service Coordinator?

Your Service Coordinator will provide you with the information you need to make decisions about the supports and services your child will receive. They will assist you in choosing and obtaining these services. The Service Coordinator will help you decide on the goals/outcomes you want to work on and help you plan how to best meet those outcomes.

Your Service Coordinator can:

  • Arrange for your child's evaluation and other assessments
  • Help you organize and prepare for the evaluation meeting
  • Help you organize and prepare for the Individualized Family Service Plan meeting when early intervention services and other supports are identified
  • Inform you about the community and other specialized services available in the community
  • Provide information about advocacy and other groups in the area that can assist you
  • Connect you with other families
  • Help you and your child prepare for preschool services when your child turns 3

Preparing for Your Child's Evaluation

All children enrolling with the early intervention program will receive a developmental evaluation. This evaluation is a process in which you, as parents/ caregivers, can observe your child carefully and discuss your child with professionals who are experienced in working with very young children and their families. What you learn from the evaluation process should answer many of your questions. The evaluation process should give you ideas about things you can do at home to help your child learn and grow. If your child is eligible for early intervention services, a team will discuss any special services your child may need and how to choose learning environments to meet the needs of your child.

When parents and professionals work together as a team, everyone will get a better understanding of how a baby or young child responds to the world, what s/he can already do, and how s/he learns best.

Preparing Your Child for the Evaluation

  • Share information with the evaluation team about what your child likes and dislikes.
  • Share information with the evaluation team about the concerns you have about your child's development.
  • Talk about what goes well on a typical day and what is difficult or challenging.
  • Have your child's favorite toys available.
  • Try to have your child fed and rested so they can do their best.
  • Consider how you can participate as a member of the evaluation team.

The Evaluation Team Determines Eligibility

At the end of the evaluation process, you and the evaluation team will determine if your child is eligible for early intervention services. Note: This evaluation will still take place even for infants with an established diagnosis of DS. Such an evaluation allows the team to determine what therapies (physical, occupational, speech, etc.) your child may need, and to what extent.

An individualized family service plan (IFSP) meeting is held

You and the team will be asked to identify outcomes that you want your child and family to work on in the next six months. Outcomes clarify the changes you want to see for your child and/or family. An outcome can focus on an area of child development or family life. It can focus on a daily routine that's difficult or one that will help your child learn a new skill or activity.

Examples may include:

  • I want Katie to move around so she can get to the toys she wants to play with.
  • We want Billy to use words so we know what he wants and needs.
  • We want to be able to take Keisha to the store without her crying so we can go shopping as a family.
  • We want Alexis to feed herself so she doesn't need extra assistance at the childcare center.
  • Joanne will learn to climb steps so she can use the slide at the park.
  • We want Christian to learn to play with toys more independently so he can learn more and I can get more done around the house.
  • We want to connect with other parents so we can learn from their experiences.

Identifying specific early intervention and community services

When the outcomes are determined, you and the evaluation/IFSP team will decide what early intervention and other community resources are appropriate. You may want to identify family resources that can help us as well.

Finalizing the IFSP

Early intervention and other services will be listed on the IFSP. The IFSP will also include how often early intervention services will occur and for how long. At this point, the Service Coordinator will work with you to identify and locate a qualified agency to provide services. All this information is written down in the plan. You will get a copy of your child's plan soon after the meeting. Service providers or your Service Coordinator will then contact you to schedule first meeting time.

How Will An Early Intervention Therapist Help Your Child Learn?

Early intervention works best when a child gets many opportunities to practice newly developing skills. To that end, the services and supports provided to children and their families and/or caregivers are designed using a variety of different early intervention models. Decisions about which model to choose is based on the kind of support your child needs to learn. Most often the services provided to you and your child are a combination of methods including but not limited to:

  • Modeling - demonstrating how to do certain activities with a child's family and/or the child's caregiver. For example, the therapist may demonstrate how to encourage your child to close their lips around a spoon during meal times or how to play with toys to encourage their interaction and communication.
  • Direct Instruction - teaching a child's family or caregiver how to practice certain skills. For example, the therapist may teach a family how to perform exercises to help their child from losing range of motion in tight muscles or how to help their child get on a swing at the local playground.
  • Consultation and Collaboration - providing ideas and resources, encouragement, and support to assist a child's family and/or caregiver to problem solve ways to help the child achieve the goals identified by the family. For example, if a child is not able to sit quietly at circle time at a child care center, the team members may suggest adaptations the teacher can easily make to help the child succeed and ways that fit easily into that environment. For a child who is having problems sleeping at night, team members may suggest a change in the bedtime routine to incorporate activities that have a calming effect.

How will my child's early intervention services be paid?

State and Federal law requires that early intervention services be provided to eligible children at no cost to families.

How is Centre County's early intervention services funded?

Early intervention services are funded in a variety of ways.

  1. Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare/ Office of Child Development receive money from the federal and state government, including Medical Assistance, the Infant, Toddlers and Family Early Intervention Waiver, and state tax dollars…
  2. The Centre County Mental Health/ Mental Retardation Office receives money from the Department of Public Welfare/ Office of Child Development and provide some local matching dollars.
  3. Your child's early intervention provider submits a bill to the Centre County MH/MR Office or to Medical Assistance or to your private insurance for the early intervention services they provide. Note: Bills are submitted to your private insurance only with your approval.

How will I know what dollars are being used to pay for my child's early intervention services?

Your child's IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan) will list how each service is funded.

Must I use my private insurance?

You can give permission for your private insurance to be billed; however you are under no obligation.

Must I enroll in Medical Assistance?

Parents may choose to apply for Pennsylvania's Medical Assistance program. Qualifications for MA are based on you child's degree of delay or disability and the income of your child, NOT ON YOUR INCOME. Please keep in mind that your child may not automatically be approved. If you enroll in MA, the early intervention system can bill medical assistance for early intervention services, including service coordination and possible other therapies' depending on any other types of insurance your child is covered under.

Is the type of services my child receives dependent on the source of funding?

No, services are based on the unique needs of the child and family and are available regardless of how the services are funded.

Transition for You and Your Child

Transitions occur in our lives all the time in many different ways. Changes in our jobs or homes are examples. While receiving early intervention services, you and your child may experience transitions as well. Planning for a transition allows for a smooth transfer from one service to another.

Transition in early intervention services means movement from on program to another, such as:

  • from the hospital to you home;
  • from an infant or toddler with home early intervention service to a preschool program;
  • from a toddler playgroup to a preschool program; or
  • from preschool program to kindergarten or first grade.

Because you know your child best, you can be his or her best advocate. Decisions regarding your child's services and family supports should not be made without you. Planning meetings will take place in the year prior to your child's third birthday to discuss options and the transition process.

Planning a successful transition

As a very important part of the team, you need to know all the options – ask questions.

  • What is needed for my child?
  • What is available?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where are they?
  • When is this transition going to occur?
  • Will a program change be necessary?
  • How will the transition occur?

A written plan is included in the IFSP.

When your child turns three years of age, responsibility for funding early intervention services changes from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. This transition on the third birthday may involve only a change in who pays for your child's services and not necessarily a child in program, services, or placement.

No change should be made to the IFSP without your consent and involvement of the sending and receiving agencies. These decisions are part of the team process.

Source: A Family's Introduction to Early Intervention in Pennsylvania, Centre County Office of MH/MR