Birth to Three

For many of you parents out there who have children with special needs, you probably already know about Birth to Three.  Birth to Three is a federally funded program to provide early intervention to children with special needs.  This includes any child who is experiencing a delay in gross motor, fine motor, feeding or language.  Out of my five boys, four of them have been in the Birth to Three program.  Alex joined when he was 2 and was delayed in his speech.  Joey got in right at 15 months for what they considered Early Developmental Delay.  (This basically meant he was delayed in many things. )  Ben joined the program at 18 months for speech.  But if your child is born with something that is know to cause delays in development, you can qualify for the program right away.

Although the program is mandated and funded through the federal government, it is implemented by each individual county.  For example, when we lived in Oakland County in Michigan, the program was implemented through the school districts.  Royal Oak has an Early Childhood Center where the Early Intervention Classes were held.  These were awesome!!!  I basically got to take my child to a play group three times a week where he would see an OT, a PT, a speech pathologist, and a special ed preschool teacher.  The information I received as a parent was invaluable.  But I also had the opportunity to connect with other parents who were on the same journey as myself.  Having a child with a disability can be lonely and isolating.  This program let me know I wasn’t alone.

Here in Wisconsin, our county handles the Birth to Three program quite differently.  You are given a main provider, either a PT, an OT, or a speech pathologist; whichever is most needed by your child at the time.  He or she comes to your home and works one on one with you and your child.  Right now, we have a physical therapist come to our house two times a month.  This is quite different from the 3 times a week my other boys received back in Michigan.  The speech teacher will work with our PT and give her exercises to do with PJ but she won’t be coming to our house unless really needed.  I can say I don’t like this system at all.  I know that they are trying to provide therapy in the least restrictive environment, which is the home.  But I feel that PJ is being shortchanged as am I.

So, what is a parent to do?  Well, if you are in my situation you do have a few choices.  First of all, most states have a Medicaid program for children with Down Syndrome.  Here in Wisconsin, the program is called the Katie Beckett program.  This part of Medicaid covers children with Down Syndrome regardless of family income.  So when our Blue Cross/Blue Shield kicks something back to us, this Medicaid program covers it.  What this means is that I have the option of opting out of Birth to Three.  Because PT is covered by my private insurance, I can opt out and then have private PT given to PJ.  The Medicaid program will cover that portion that BC/BS sends back to me for my deductible, co-pay, etc.  This is an awesome option for parents out there.  But it also happens to be an option that most parents don’t know to even ask for.   Unfortunately, if  you don’t have private insurance on top of Medicaid, this won’t apply to you.  The Medicaid program prefers your child to be in Birth to Three if they are paying the entire bill because it is a cost saving measure for them.  But once your child turns three, you can then use Medicaid for private therapy sessions.

Just remember that early intervention is so important for your child!!!!  There is so much information out there and it can be hard to weed through.  If you are a parent of a child with special needs and have questions, please ask!!!

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