With all the changes that have happened with regards to funding for therapies and services for kids with special needs there has been a lot of questions in terms of therapy services about the difference between medical-based therapy, developmental-based therapy and school/educational-based therapy. I will do my best to shed some light on the matter!
Early intervention or early start services cover kids ages 0-3 who demonstrate a delay in development in specific areas. Early start services work under a developmental model. If your child is not reaching milestones and is delayed ‘enough’ then the goal of services is to progress your child through the developmental sequence providing them with an opportunity to catch up to their peers. During this time parents and caregivers should be receiving training from the therapist to assist in the progression and carryover of their child’s developing skills.
Because of the requirements, in the state of California, that children now must utilize their insurance first before the state will fund therapy services many kids are getting referred to hospital outpatient facilities because that is where their insurance is contracted with. Many of these centers (and yes, I am making a blanket statement) are used to following a more medical based model. Oftentimes they will see a child who has a specific injury or change in status and they require services to get them back to their prior level of function. They are helping the child and the family come back from whatever medical set back or injury they had. This is different than the developmental model that works to progress children through the developmental sequence.
Both of these are different than school based services. School based or educational based therapies are provided by the educational system when a child turns 3. The child has an IEP which involves various team members and evaluations in all suspected areas of delay. The role of the school system in providing therapy is to provide your child with access to their education. So, even though your child may still be delayed, this does not automatically ensure that they will receive school based services because the school system may decide that it is not affecting their access to education.
I will write more later on the topic of educational based services but I wanted to give a brief description of the various delivery models that are out there for therapy to help clarify any questions families have. The developmental vs medical based approaches are starting to cross lines due to the requirement of children using insurance but they are still different approaches.
Hopefully this answered some questions, I’m sure it raised some more – please feel free to let me know if you need anything clarified!