Have you ever wondered how children get referred to Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education (EI/ECSE) programs?  A recent informational hearing gave a great glimpse into the process.

The State of Oregon is divided into nine different areas, each of which is served by an organization that is contracted to provide EI/ECSE services to that region.

map of Oregon divided into 9 regions

Credit: Oregon Department of Education, EI/ECSE Contractor Contact Information

EI/ECSE providers in each service area have a responsibility to find every child birth to five who qualifies for services (their “child find obligation”). To do this, providers go to natural contact points for children and families in community, and tell them about services. Providers work in close partnership with the following referral sources:

  • Parents
  • Physicians
  • Child care providers
  • Head Start/Oregon Pre-Kindergarten/Early Head Start
  • Department of Human Services/Child Welfare
  • Public health programs
  • Other early childhood programs, such as Relief Nursery

To help explain how it works, it might be helpful to take the example of referrals by physicians.  Dr. Monique Carroll, a board-certified pediatrician at the Community Health Centers of Lane County, describes the role of physicians as that of conducting “developmental surveillance” each time a child visits a clinic, especially during well-child visits. Physicians look for things that are not within a typical range. They use a standard developmental screening tool (i.e., the “Ages and Stages Questionnaire,” or the “ASQ,” is standard across Oregon).  Per the American Academy of Pediatric guidelines, a standard developmental screening should be administered at 9 months, 18 months, and 24-30 months. Physicians also use a standard screening tool because if they just look at a child, they may miss many subtle things, such as mild speech articulation delays. Using the same screening tool makes it easy to communicate information across providers; in other words, they are all speaking the same language.

Once a developmental challenge is identified, physicians are mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and federal guidelines to refer that child and their family to their local Early Intervention program within seven days.

Of course, parents can always refer themselves by contacting programs directly if they have concerns about their child’s development, such as how they walk, talk, hear, see, play with toys, or respond to others. Each county in Oregon has an EI/ECSE referral and evaluation agency.

If you have questions about your child or just want to learn more about EI/ECSE programs, the local phone numbers in each county can be found here.