Early Childhood (Birth to 3 years)
During early childhood, all children experience periods of rapid growth and development. During this time, they typically take their first step, say their first word and acquire other skills, including social skills. Typically, basic developmental skills are those that children are able to do within certain age ranges (or milestones). If they fail to acquire these skills by a certain milestone, there could be a concern about the child having a developmental delay. If there is a delay, this should first be brought to the attention of the child’s pediatrician.
Additionally, the family (or anyone) can request that the child be referred to the Early Development Network (EDN). The EDN will work to have the child evaluated (with the parent’s consent) to see if they are eligible for free early intervention services provided by the child’s local school district. The EDN will work with both the child and the family, with a focus on the family as the primary locus of infant development. For more information, see the parent guide: Along the Way.
There are many other programs in addition to the EDN available to help Nebraska’s infants, toddlers, young children and their families. Children don’t come with an instruction booklet, and sometimes parents need assistance, especially if their child experiences a disability or delay. The resources below can help families obtain the skills, services and supports needed for their child to be successful.
Check to see if your child’s growth and development is on track.
The Early Development Network (EDN) in Nebraska is made up from the co-lead agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education. The EDN is a free resource to help support children who encounter developmental delays to acquire skills primarily through support to the family. Eligible children can receive services such as speech, occupational therapy and physical therapy from their local school district in the child’s natural environment. This means that services can be provided in the family home or even in a childcare facility. The family can also get additional support from an EDN services coordinator who can help the family identify other resources that may be needed. Nebraska’s Early Development Network supports children birth through 3 years of age who have special developmental needs and can also assist the family to transition to school-based services.
- Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) An IFSP is a plan for special services for young children with developmental delays and their families. An IFSP only applies to children from birth to three years of age and supports the needs of the child but also the needs of the family. Once a child turns three years old, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is put into place. This program was created by U.S. Public Law 99-457.
- Planning Regions Teams There are currently 28 planning regions teams across the state. The purpose of the teams is to assist in creating a family-centered, interagency community-based system for all children, with emphasis on those with disabilities, ages birth to five. Families are encouraged to participate to share their experiences and help identify any gaps and barriers. Federally, PRTs are required to have 20 percent of members be family members. Go to the website to find your planning region team you belong to.
- Nebraska ChildFind Nebraska Child Find provides information to parents, school personnel and service providers on child development and special education for children from birth (or date of diagnosis) to age 21. Child Find, required under the federal Rehab Act, also helps parents access information on rights and resources to help them advocate for an appropriate education for their child.
- The Family Care Enhancement Project This is a project that places parent resource coordinators in medical clinics across the state to help families that have children with disabilities connect to early intervention and other community resources. Coordinated by the Munroe-Meyer Institute, parent resource coordinators are parents who have children with disabilities and who have successfully navigated multiple systems to best support their children. They offer family-to-family support to newly identified families who have children with disabilities.
- Tracking Infant Progress Statewide (TIPS) Developmental TIPS is a developmental follow-up program coordinated through the Munroe-Meyer Institute at the UNMC, in collaboration with Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska Department of Education, and 10 area hospitals. This is a great program for families who have/had children in the NICU.
Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children from birth to age five. Head Start promotes learning and growth in many areas such as language, literacy and social and emotional development. Head Start emphasizes the role of parents as their child's first and most important teacher. These programs help build relationships with families that support family well-being and many other important areas. Additionally, Early Head Start is a program which serves infants, toddlers and pregnant women and their families who have incomes below the federal poverty level. Both Head Start and Early Head Start programs are required to provide these services for free, and at least 10 percent of the children they serve must have a disability.
Nebraska has many home visiting programs available across the state to help provide information and support to pregnant woman and young children who are struggling with poverty, violence, substance abuse, teen pregnancy and for military families with one or more parents deployed. The home visitation program professionals are trained to recognize children with developmental delays and help to provide referrals and supports.