Once an infant or toddler is suspected of having a disability, she must be evaluated to determine her eligibility for early intervention services. The evaluation can occur only upon obtaining parental consent. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 303.420.] Regional Centers and school districts are responsible for ensuring implementation of the evaluation process. [Cal. Gov. Code Sec. 95016(b).] Each child referred for determination of eligibility for early intervention services must be provided with a “timely, comprehensive, multidisciplinary evaluation” of needs and level of functioning. The assessment “shall be conducted by qualified personnel, and shall include a family interview, to identify the child’s unique strengths and needs and the services appropriate to meet those needs; and the resources, priorities, and concerns of the family and the supports and services necessary to enhance the family’s capacity to meet the developmental needs of their infant or toddler.”
As appropriate, assessments shall be shared between the regional center, the school district, and any other agencies providing services for the eligible infant or toddler. Assessments should be family-directed and voluntary on the part of the family and families shall be given the opportunity to participate in all decisions regarding eligibility and services. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 303.321; Cal. Gov. Code Sec. 95016(a).]
The eligibility decision is made by qualified staff of the regional center or district with the participation of the multidisciplinary team including the parent. The evaluation must be based on “informed clinical opinion” and include:
- a review of pertinent records related to the infant or toddler’s health status and medical history provided by qualified health professionals who have evaluated or assessed the infant or toddler; and
- information obtained from parental observation and report.
The evaluation must also include the infant or toddler’s level of functioning in the areas of:
- cognitive development;
- physical and motor development including vision and hearing;
- communication development;
- social or emotional development; and,
- adaptive development.
No single procedure or test can be used as the sole criterion for determining eligibility. Standardized tests may be used as part of the evaluation and shall be:
- selected to ensure that, when administered to an infant or toddler with impaired sensory, motor or speaking skills, the tests produce results that accurately reflect the infant’s or toddler’s aptitude, developmental level, or any other factors the test purports to measure and not the infant’s or toddler’s impaired sensory, motor or speaking skills unless those skills are the factors the test purports to measure;
- validated for the specific purpose for which they are used;
- selected and administered so as not to be racially or culturally discriminatory; and,
- conducted in a “natural environment” whenever possible.
Natural environment means a setting that is natural or normal for non-disabled peers that are the child’s age. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 303.26.]
Infants or toddlers with solely low incidence disabilities shall be evaluated and assessed by qualified district staff whose professional preparation, license or credential authorization are specific to the suspected disability. [17 C.C.R. Sec. 52082(g).]