Tuesday, November 8th, 2011
Today Easter Seals, the nonprofit provider of services for individuals with autism and other disabilities, released a report that outlines how well each state takes care of its youngest children with special needs. To determine this, researchers looked at how much money every state is given to provide early intervention services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C program. This program offers free services for families of children under age 3 with developmental disabilities or delays, and in October it celebrated its 25th anniversary, but it’s never been fully or adequately funded. Just 2.67 percent of children are enrolled in the program, but early childhood experts estimate that anywhere from 13 to 20 percent of kids under 3 could benefit from its services.
Overall, the Easter Seals report has a sad bottom line: In almost every state, infants and toddlers with delays don’t get the help they need, and they may never catch up. I went straight to the page for New Jersey, since that’s where I live, and was discouraged to see that our state receives $809,000 less in federal funding for early intervention services than it did last year. Virtually every state has seen their funding drop, though some states, like New Hampshire, have the same amount, and California, Virginia, and New York have actually gotten slightly more funding through Part C in the past year.
Want to do something about this? Support Easter Seals’ Make the First Five Count initiative and sign the petition to Congress opposing any more cuts to Part C–in your state and everyone else’s. And if you think your child might benefit from early intervention, talk to your pediatrician, or find an Easter Seals near you–they are here to help.
Image: Multicolor Grunge USA Map, via Shutterstock