Medically-based therapies are looked at much differently in Birth-to-Three programming than programming for school-age children.  Early Intervention is a system of coordinated services that promotes the child’s growth and development and supports families during the critical early years.  In the United States, Early Intervention services for eligible children and families are federally mandated through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Starting with a partnership between parents and professionals at this early stage helps the child, family and community as a whole.

The earlier children with or at risk of disabilities receive medically-based therapy assistance and the sooner their families receive support, the better chance children have to reach their greatest potential.  Early Intervention services are credited with improving developmental, social and educational gains.  The earlier intervention is received, the greater the possibility of reducing the future costs of special education, rehabilitation and health care needs.  Reducing a family’s feelings of isolation, stress and frustration by educating and partnering with them can be life altering for the family. Early Intervention can  help alleviate and reduce behaviors with positive behavior strategies and interventions.  This allows children with disabilities to become productive, independent individuals.

School-based therapy is governed by federal and state laws.  Therapy is a related service to special education and is provided only if the child needs therapy to function in the education setting.  In the school, the need for therapy is determined by the Individual Education Program (IEP) Team.  Parents are a part of this team.  The team determines the amount, frequency and duration of therapy.  Whereas, medical-based therapy is a multi-disciplinary approach, school-based therapy is related directly to education.

Common medical diagnoses that can affect education needs include: Autism, ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), CP (Cerebral Palsy), RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), PDD (Pervasive Development Disorder), FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) and DD (Developmental Delay).  If a child has a diagnosis of any of these, there is likelihood that therapy will be provided in school because the diagnosis has a direct impact on education.

Has your child had experience with both school and medically-based therapies?  If so, what has worked best for you?

Amy Bontempo is the Manager of Family and Community Engagement at Penfield Children’s Center.  She supervises the Community Outreach Educator, Volunteer Coordinator, Parent Mentor Program, and Family Programs of which Penfield host over 60 per year.  She has served on the Board of Directors for the Down Syndrome Association (DSAW) of Wisconsin since 2011 and previously served on the Volunteer Respite Committee for Children’s Service Society now part of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Community Services, and the Family Resource Connection of Milwaukee Co.

Bright Tots. <>

Waisman Center. University of Wisconsin Madison. <>

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.  <>

Family Voices. <>

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