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Essentials for Navigating Multiple Systems

Where do I start?

Service Entry Points

Where you start can make a difference getting the right mix of services. Increasingly, service systems have implemented a concept of "one entry point" to a wide array of services – rather like going through a funnel in reverse. Also, understanding eligibility requirements will save you time and help you avoid going down a path toward a certain service only to reach a dead end of ineligibility. The idea is to get to what you need most quickly.

Where do I start?

Good Things to Know

  • Your family doctor or child's pediatrician is the best place to start if you have concerns about your infant or preschool age child's development. You can talk to your pediatrician about any concerns you have about the way your child is growing and developing. Pediatricians conduct developmental screenings during well-child visits to make sure your child is on track. If you do not have a family doctor or pediatrician, a local health care walk-in clinic would be an alternative starting place to bring your concerns. A medical professional there should be able to point you in the right direction.
  • The NYS Early Intervention Program (EIP), through the NYS Department of Health, is part of the national Early Intervention Program for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. To be eligible for services, children must be under 3 years of age and have a confirmed disability or established developmental delay, as defined by NYS, in one or more of the following areas of development: physical, cognitive, communication, social-emotional, and/or adaptive.
  • If you have a preschool child and you have noticed that your child is not developing skills such as walking, talking or playing like other young children, you may want to talk to your family doctor. He or she may be able to reassure you that children develop at different rates and your child is within the normal developmental scales. If, however, the doctor is concerned, or you are still not comfortable with your child’s progress, you may make a referral to your school district’s Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE).
  • Many schools offer direct supports for students who may benefit from psychological services, speech and language improvement services, curriculum and instructional modifications and academic intervention services. If you, the teacher and principal have not been able to help your child, your child may have a disability that affects his or her learning. To help make a determination, you can make a referral to the Committee on Special Education (CSE).
  • Throughout New York State, "Single Point of Access" (SPOA) coordinators serve as a primary entry point for mental health / behavioral health services. Staff at the SPOA in your region are very knowledgeable about programs and services and are trained to help guide individuals and families to the most appropriate mental health services and providers. SPOA coordinators provide referrals and help with transitions between programs and services.
  • NY Connects is your trusted place to go for free, unbiased information about long-term supports in New York State for people of all ages or with any type of disability.
  • The NYS Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) has established a "Front Door" Initiative that strives to better connect an individual's needs to available services and give people as many opportunities as possible for self-direction.

Things You Can Do

  • If your school-age child is having difficulties in school, one of the first things you should do is talk to his or her teacher.
  • If you are concerned about your infant or preschool child's development, talk to your pediatrician or family doctor.
  • Getting your child evaluated is one of the first steps to finding appropriate programs and services. For children under three years old, contact the NYS Early Intervention Program. For children and youth over three, your child's school will do an evaluation. If you are dissatisfied with the results of the school's evaluation, you may request an outside evaluation at no cost to you.

Things Others Can Do

  • As mentioned above, every county in New York State has a Single Point of Access (SPOA) coordinator. The SPOA coordinator is very knowledgeable and can provide guidance referrals for your child's individual needs.
  • 2-1-1 (3-1-1 in NYC) helps people assess their needs and links them directly to resources that will help.
  • Families Together in New York State (FTNYS) Regional Parent Advisors serve as liaisons facilitating communication between the NYS Office of Mental Health and families in the community.
  • NY Connects staff can help link you to long-term services and supports, such as home care, transportation and meals. Their goal is to help individuals live as independently as they wish, while meeting medical, social and functional needs that arise from aging or disability. NY Connects helps individuals, families, caregivers, and professionals.
  • Regional Interagency Technical Assistance Team leaders are very knowledgeable about cross-systems services in their regions.

Best Sources for More Guidance

  • The NYS Education Department (SED), Office of Special Education Services oversees statewide preschool special education programs with school districts, municipalities, approved providers and parents. The following link contains helpful information and is available in both English and Spanish - Information for parents of preschool children (3-5) with disabilities.
  • The Council on Children and Families' Hard to Place / Hard to Serve Unit assists caregivers and individuals in receiving the most appropriate community-based or residential services; minimizes delays in arranging services or placements; and resolves barriers that impede timely service delivery or placement.

Developed by the Council on Children and Families and Funded by the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council