Determining Eligibility for Services: When Kids with Autism are Cognitively on Target

by J

Since S is under age 3, he is currently enrolled in our county’s Infants and Toddler’s Program, with an IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan). He was initially evaluated at 17 months and accepted into the program because he presented with a >25% delay in expressive speech. The IFSP is a family plan that involves teachers and other service providers coming into the home and helping not only the child, but also the family, learn to address the child’s delays. However, before S turns 3, he needs to be re-evaluated to determine if he is still eligible to receive services. If he still qualifies, we can remain on the IFSP for another year, or we can move him to an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). The IEP is a school-based service, where he would receive all of his intervention through the school. If eligible, Daddy J and I would be able to choose which way we want to go.

Here is where the kicker comes in… I am worried that he will no longer qualify for services. He just completed his evaluations and S has come so far, and made so many improvements, over the last 18 months that he is actually testing within his age range for speech, motor skills, cognitive abilities, etc. Now, this may sound fantastic, (and don’t get me wrong, I love the improvement) but don’t be fooled. Just because my kid can name his letters and count to 10, does not mean that he does not need services. Most of S’s delays are behavioral and social. He has trouble entering classrooms and transitioning from one activity to another. He does not repsond to his name. He does not know how to play with other kids.

He just completed all of his 3 year testing and I’ve received two of the 4 reports back. So far, S is testing within age range in speech and cognitive development. Luckily, all of his service providers feel that he would benefit best from further intervention- I mean, if you know S, that is pretty clear. I’ve read the two reports and I must say, that as a parent, they were painful to read. Because his test scores were so high, the providers were keen to focus their reports highlighting his areas of struggles. When you see it all in black and white… all of the things that your child struggles with… well, that is a very difficult read.

What is worse, is that I have been instructed to create my own ‘report’ of sorts, by making a bulleted list of all of the ways that S is not developing typically. Let me tell you, it sucks sitting down and making a list of things that aren’t ‘typical’ about your child. It weighs even heavier on the heart when that list is 3 pages… front and back.

So, now I guess we just wait. There are two more reports to be written and then his eligibility meeting is the first week of June. All I can do now is pray that even though he is not testing with a >25% delay, that he will be allowed to continue in the program.

While I am so grateful for all of the progress S has made in the last year, thanks to early intervention, he still has a long way to go. And, without further support and intervention, he is certain to backslide. So, fingers crossed everyone!!!