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Early Intervening Services


Children who do not receive School-age Special Education services may be able to receive Early Intervening Services. Early Intervening Services are research-based interventions, primarily in reading, math, and science, that are available to students who are not making sufficient progress to meet age or state-approved grade-level standards. They are available for children in kindergarten through 12th grade, but are particularly used for children in kindergarten through 3rd grade. They are meant to be preventive services for children who might otherwise be identified as having a Specific Learning Disability.

Students are eligible for Early Intervening Services if: (1) they have not been evaluated for special education services; (2) they are deemed "at risk" academically and/or behaviorally; and (3) if additional academic and behavioral supports are needed for the students to succeed in a general education environment.

Early Intervening Services are not an entitlement, however. In other words, states and school districts do not have to offer them. Many states do, nonetheless, including Pennsylvania. States are allowed to develop their own regulations about when Early Intervening Services can be provided, with only a few federal requirements set by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA allows states to spend up to 15% of IDEA funds on Early Intervening Services. Funds can be used to pay for professional development of teachers (training) and for educational and behavioral evaluations, services, and supports for students.

Schools which provide Early Intervening Services must keep track of how many students receive them and how many of these students are later referred to special education services. Additionally, schools must collect data to determine if the services are working for an individual student. The data collected is referred to as the child's Response to Intervention (RTI). RTI can later be used in a special education evaluation, if necessary.

If a student has not made adequate progress after an appropriate period of time, the school must refer the child for a special education evaluation. However, IDEA and most state laws do not specify how long Early Intervening Services should be tried or define "adequate progress." If your child is receiving Early Intervening Services and you feel he or she is not making progress, request a special education evaluation in writing. Federal law is clear that Early Intervening Services/RTI cannot delay a special education evaluation if a child is suspected of needing specially designed instruction, and Early Intervening Services cannot be used to limit a child's right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

Nevertheless, some parents report that students who need special education services are being denied them and being offered Early Intervening Services instead. If true, this would deny parents many of the rights afforded by IDEA. For example, students receiving Early Intervening Services do not have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and their parents are not part of an IEP team. If you believe that Early Intervening Services are preventing your child from receiving FAPE, contact a special education attorney.

In many districts, the use of Early Intervening Services and RTI has expanded quite a bit since Congress added these provisions to IDEA in 2004. The original purpose for Early Intervening Services was to reduce the number of minority and poor children who were being referred to special education services. Research has shown that these children may have fewer educational opportunities and may lack appropriate educational instruction. The lack of appropriate instruction and educational opportunities may cause these children to look like children with learning disabilities, thus disproportionately referring minority and economically disadvantaged children to the special education system. Rather than categorizing them as children with learning disabilities, Early Intervening Services are designed to help these children catch up by giving them access to research-based instructional methods. In many districts today, Early Intervening Services and RTI are used for children of all walks of life, not just those who are minorities or economically disadvantaged.

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The Center for Autism Research and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia do not endorse or recommend any specific person or organization or form of treatment. The information included within the CAR Autism Roadmap™ and CAR Resource Directory™ should not be considered medical advice and should serve only as a guide to resources publicly and privately available. Choosing a treatment, course of action, and/or a resource is a personal decision, which should take into account each individual's and family's particular circumstances.