Early Intervention services provide families of children with developmental disabilities (including autism) between birth and age three with services to enhance development; these are guided by an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and are coordinated through Babies Can't Wait in Georgia.
Preschool Services are the services and supports provided to children with developmental disabilities (including autism) between three and five; these are guided by an Individualized Education Program (IEP) developed to fulfill the mandate for a "free and appropriate public education" and are coordinated through the local school district.
Quality Indicators / Problems / Data Drivers
QI 5.1: Children with autism receive services appropriate for their needs. That is, services are provided by competent providers, with the frequency, duration, and fidelity needed to be effective.
Problem: Many teachers and childcare providers are unfamiliar with autism, which results in repeated complaints to parents about behaviors characteristic of autism. In many areas of Georgia, Babies Can’t Wait provides primarily consultative (as opposed to direct) services leaving families largely responsible for providing interventions, thus leaving a question of whether services are being provided in a manner likely to be effective. Babies Can’t Wait enrolls the fewest number of children in services relative to the national average; this is due in part to relatively restrictive standards for receiving services.21 Many families seek services and interventions outside of Babies Can’t Wait and preschool special education settings in order to meet the needs of their children – this has a high emotional and financial cost.
Data Driver: For some children with autism, early intervention starting between 18 and 30 months (or as early as possible), and provided more than 20 hours per week, is associated with best outcomes.6, 20
QI 5.2: Professionals and parents work together in planning the transition from an IFSP in Babies Can’t Wait to an IEP in preschool.
Problem: The IFSP and IEP are constructed under very different service models and approaches to intervention. Families often report that the transition from Babies Can’t Wait to preschool does not go smoothly, and as the emphasis shifts from family to the child as an individual.
Data Driver: TThe Georgia pre-kindergarten program makes inclusion opportunities more widely available for four-year-old children with autism, and facilitates the transition from IFSP to IEP.22
QI 5.3: The IEP identifies the services and supports that meet the child’s specific needs in the least
restrictive environment, including the consideration of assistive technology and positive behavior supports.
Problem: Parents report that preschool services provided are based on availability of providers or a class grouping at the local level, rather than the child’s specific need. Specialized supports such as augmentative communication devices or positive behavior supports are not routinely available.
Data Driver: Inclusive preschool programs for children with autism have been demonstrated to be a highly effective intervention approach.