New York Averts COVID-related Lapse in Early Intervention Therapy for Toddlers with Developmental Delays

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Hundreds of New York state toddlers whose early intervention services were threatened by the possibility of missing a June 30 deadline because of COVID-19 precautions got a reprieve on Monday when the state moved the deadline back.

The state Health Department said children who turn 3 between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31 and who have not yet received an evaluation to determine their eligibility for preschool special education program services may continue to receive their therapies uninterrupted beyond June 30 after all.

They may continue to receive the department’s early intervention services through the date the child is found eligible and begins receiving the preschool special education services or Aug. 31, whichever is sooner.

Earlier this month, about 80 advocates for the toddlers wrote Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) a letter pleading with him to intervene to keep services flowing. Monday’s news came as a relief to families who were concerned that their children with developmental delays and disabilities would lose access to in-home speech, behavioral, occupational and other therapies this week because the coronavirus pandemic has prevented them from getting the services approved by their local school district.

The state Department of Health provides special services for children 2 and younger, but once they turn 3, the responsibility falls to school districts, which require a new evaluation. As a temporary fix, in late March the state allowed children who turned 3 during the pandemic to receive services through June 30 – a window that was about to close.

Most school districts were scrambling to evaluate children via video calls, but the weekslong pause in evaluations created a significant backlog, preventing hundreds of children from getting approved for services from their school districts.

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