The Office of Specialty Services is focused on ensuring that children with particular conditions are identified at a young age and then have access to appropriate intervention. Children who have a hearing loss, vision loss, deafblindness, children who have complex medical needs or multiple disabilities, or an Autism Spectrum Disorder are all part of this group. Although these children may not seem to share many traits, they are grouped together because they may need attention from professionals with specialized training to address the particular needs of each of these diagnoses. The office oversees policy development, standards and monitoring of specialty service providers, and provides technical assistance, training and consultation to program staff, families, community collaborators and other state agencies around specialty service issues.
Low incidence refers to a diagnosis of blindness, visual impairment, deafness, hearing loss, deafblindness, autism, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder. A child who has any one of these conditions fits the criteria for services to children with specialty service conditions.
Children with specialty service conditions may require specialized care and services that may not be appropriately, adequately, or specifically provided within the existing early intervention system. A clinician with special skills or knowledge may be needed to supplement the child’s program. This clinician might be:
- A teacher of the deaf
- A teacher of the visually impaired
- A professional with expertise in autism
- A sign language instructor
- An assistive technology specialist
or a clinician with other skills appropriate to a particular child’s needs.
Early Intervention Programs are encouraged to subcontract with appropriate low incidence/specialty service specialists if they are not able to accommodate a child’s needs within their own program. Staff should consult with their supervisor/program director before referring children to specialty providers to ensure that a contractual relationship exists between the provider and the Early Intervention Program. It is expected that children served by specialty providers will remain active in their Early Intervention Programs. The Early Intervention Program is holder of the Individualized Family Service Plan and coordinates transition to the LEA, as well as providing whatever early intervention services are appropriate to the child and family.
The Department of Public Health contracts directly with some specialty service providers. Early Intervention Programs do not need to subcontract with these providers in order to make their services available to families. Eligibility for these programs is based upon the child’s diagnosis.
DPH contracted agencies include:
- Perkins School (includes New England Consortium of Deafblind Projects: services to children who are blind, deafblind, and those with low vision
- Gallaudet University Regional Center: provides instruction in American Sign Language and an introduction to Deaf Culture to parents of children who are deaf/ hard of hearing through the Family Sign Language Program
The Department of Public Health administers a hearing aid procurement program for infants and children that is available to financially eligible families. For information, contact the Community Support Line at 1-800-882-1435.
Early Intervention Programs may contract directly with specialty service providers who are from agencies that do not contract directly with DPH or who work as private consultants. Any personnel that provide direct services in the Early Intervention system must apply for Provisional Certification as an Early Intervention Specialist.
Intensive behavioral services for children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis are provided by a group of Specialty Service Providers approved by the Department of Public Health. These agencies contract directly with Early Intervention Programs.
A series of brochures has been developed by the Specialty Services Committee of the Interagency Coordinating Council to help alert parents and education providers to the early signs suggestive of specialty service conditions.
Service Coordinator Resources
- Starting Points for Service Coordinators working with Complex Medical Conditions
- Starting Points for Service Coordinators – Hearing Loss
- Starting Points for Service Coordinators – Vision Loss
- Starting Points for Service Coordinators for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders [pdf]
- Starting Points for Service Coordinators for Children with both Vision and Hearing Loss [pdf]
Information for Families of newly diagnosed children on the Autism Spectrum
- Information for Families of newly diagnosed children on the Autism Spectrum 2013 [pdf]
- Information for Families diagnosed children on the Autism Spectrum 2013 (Haitian Creole) [pdf]
- Information for Families diagnosed children on the Autism Spectrum 2013 (Portuguese) [pdf]
- Information for Families diagnosed children on the Autism Spectrum 2013 (Spanish) [pdf]
- Information for Families diagnosed children on the Autism Spectrum 2013 (Vietnamese) [pdf]
- Arica: Frequently Asked Questions for EI Staff, Providers, and Families [pdf]
- The Massachusetts Autism Insurance Law (aka ARICA)Frequently Asked Questions [pdf]
- Websites with Information for Families about Hearing Loss Websites con Información para Familias Sobre la Sordera y la Pérdida Auditiva [pdf]
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Coordinator of Specialty Services