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Department of Education Issues New Guidelines Addressing Early Intervention Services

Published December 9, 2020

The Department of Education emphasizes the importance of flexibility in meeting children’s educational needs.

The Department of Education released a document addressing concerns surrounding the availability of Early Intervention Services to infants and toddlers with special needs. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), the state is required to “ensure the development, review, and implementation of an IFSP developed by a multidisciplinary team, which includes the parents,” reaffirming the importance of Early Intervention services.

However, the Department acknowledges that the face-to-face meetings, typically required under IDEA, may not be feasible in light of the current “operational constraints” presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the Department announced that initial, annual and periodic IFSP meetings could be conducted through a telephone or video conference. However, the Department clarified this can only be done if both the parents and IFSP team members agree to the telephone or video conference. The meeting should still be held at a time convenient to the family, and, when possible, in the family’s native language.

The Department also allows increased flexibility when it comes to the 45-day timeline for conducting the initial IFSP meeting. Typically, the state has 45 days to complete the initial IFSP meeting, unless the parents are unavailable or do not consent to the screening of their child. Under existing law, a state is also excused from the timeline if there are documented exceptional family circumstances outside the state’s control. In the recent document, the Department explained that the COVID-19 pandemic may constitute exceptional family circumstances, justifying the delay of a child’s initial evaluation to determine their eligibility and the child’s assessment.

The Department also addressed what the state must do if they are unable to provide a child with the necessary services. Specifically, the document explains that the state must provide written notice to the family as soon as possible, and then work with the family to determine what alternate services are available.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it much more difficult for parents to obtain the necessary services for children with special needs. However, students are still entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education under the Federal law. Parents wrestling with the challenges of identifying educational services for their children should reach out to a dedicated New York special education attorney for assistance.

Navigating the New York special education system can be tricky, and busy parents who are unfamiliar with the process may need assistance, especially during these challenging times. Parents concerned that their children are not receiving appropriate in-person or remote special education services should contact a special education attorney. The dedicated team of special needs advocates at Littman Krooks, LLP, has a comprehensive understanding of the educational and transitional support requirements pertaining to students with special needs. They use this knowledge to ensure that every student gets the education and support they need and deserve. Littman Krooks has been helping New York families for over 30 years. The knowledgeable attorneys at Littman Krooks can be reached at 914-684-2100. You can also contact them at

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