What is First Steps?
First Steps is the State of Indiana ’s early intervention system. Our program serves families with infants and toddlers (age birth to three) who are experiencing developmental delays or have a diagnosed condition that has a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay.
First Steps is funded by state and federal funds. Every family in Indiana, regardless of income or location, can access the First Steps program.
First Steps services can begin at birth if needed, or at any time before your child’s third birthday. Services can last until your child no longer needs help or until s/he turns three years old.
Any child, age birth to three, in the state of Indiana is entitled to a free developmental evaluation. However, children must meet eligibility criteria and show a need for services to receive ongoing services.
How do I contact First Steps? Are there services in my city/town?
If you live in the Southern Indiana area, which includes the counties of:
Cluster I Cluster F
then call us at 1-800-941-2450 for Cluster I, or 1-877-860-0413 for Cluster F for more information or to refer your child.
First Steps services are in every city/town in Indiana . However, nine different regional offices (known as “Clusters”) serve the different counties. If you do not live in one of the counties listed above, then check the State Link at http://www.in.gov/fssa/4655.htm for your county or call our office and we will get you the contact information for your local office.
Our offices are located in Corydon, Evansville, Ferdinand, Georgetown, Salem, Washington, and Terre Haute however, our appointments take place at your home or any other location that is convenient for you.
What does it mean for a child to have a developmental delay or a diagnosed condition that has a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay?
A child’s growth and development are more than just physical. Development is the process of learning and mastering new skills over time, which include the ability to move, communicate, think, see, hear, play with toys, interact with people and learn to behave (these are commonly referred to as developmental milestones.) The First Steps program assesses children in the five areas of development:
- Cognitive Skills : such as paying attention, knowing how to play with toys, playing turn-taking games, problem solving activities
- Physical Skills : such as sitting, walking, balancing, picking up small objects, coloring with crayons, vision and hearing
- Communication Skills : such as pointing, talking, understanding directions
- Social-Emotional Development : such as making eye contact, getting along with others, expressing feelings, being able to be in group settings
- Adaptive and Self-Help Skills : such as feeding, sleeping; getting dressed independently
A developmental delay means that your child may be behind in meeting one or more of the milestones in the above areas of development.
A diagnosed condition that has a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay means that your child has a diagnosis that has been identified by a professional that limits or slows down your child’s development and/or your child is experiencing one of the following:
- Chromosomal abnormalities or genetic disorder
- Sensory impairments, including vision or hearing
- Low birth weight (less than 1500 grams)
- Neurological disorder
- Congenital malformation
- Severe toxic exposure, including prenatal exposure
Neurological abnormality in the newborn period.
What does it mean to be eligible and in need of services for First Steps?
To be eligible for services through the First Steps program, your child must have a 25% delay in one of the five developmental areas listed above (Cognitive, Physical, Communication, Social or Adaptive) or a 20% delay in two of those five areas. This % delay is determined by the evaluation that First Steps completes on your child.
Children with certain medical diagnosis are also eligible for our program. This diagnosis must be made by the child’s physician.
Even if your child is showing a developmental delay or has a certain medical diagnosis, to receive First Steps services, they must also show a need for services. This will be determined after the evaluation is completed and other information is collected.
How is it determined that my child is eligible and need of services?
Your child’s eligibility for First Steps is determined by the information collected from a multi-disciplinary team. This includes parent’s report, information from your child’s doctor, results of the First Steps evaluation, Service Coordinator’s interview, and any other resources you want considered.
What should I do if I suspect my child is behind in their development?
You can check out the Developmental Checklist for ages from birth to 36 months.
If you are feeling unsure about how your child is doing, then please trust your instincts and contact First Steps for a developmental evaluation. This evaluation will help identify if your child needs help or put your mind at ease that your child is progressing just fine.
We also encourage you to discuss your concerns with your child’s doctor, but you do not need a doctor’s referral to contact First Steps. You, as a family member or as a professional can refer a child directly to First Steps if you are having concerns about a child’s development. Anyone at anytime can call us and we will contact the family to see if they are interested in First Steps services.
What does the First Steps program offer?
The First Steps program offers:
- An evaluation on your child that looks at all the areas of his or her development. This evaluation gives you valuable information on how your child is doing with their skills, and identifies any areas that your child might need some help with.
- Services that typically take place in your child’s natural environment. Usually, this is your home, but it can also be places where you and your child spend time (e.g. your child’s daycare, grandparents home, local park, etc.)
- A Service Coordinator who helps bring together the different people, information and resources that will support your child and family. Your Coordinator can also help identify resources in your community that will assist your family with a wide variety of social or financial issues.
- A variety of direct services and therapy that helps your child meet the outcomes that enable your child to participate in the regular routines and activities that are important to your family.
- Supports that respect your family’s culture, values and priorities.
- A program that is completely voluntary and you can stop services at any time.
What direct services and therapy does First Steps provide?
Audiology (i.e. hearing tests and services)
Speech and Language Pathology
Social Work Services
What do I need to make a referral to First Steps?
All you need to do is call First Steps to make a referral. Any parent, friend or professional can be the one who makes the first contact. You will need to provide basic information such as:
- child’s name and date of birth
- family’s name, address and phone number
- the name of the child’s doctor
- a brief explanation of the reason you are referring the child
The referral will then be assigned to a Coordinator who will set up an initial appointment with the family.
What if my child is over age 3 and is showing signs of a developmental delay?
First Steps services are only available to children under age 3. If you have concerns about your child after the age of 3, then please talk to your doctor and call your local school system’s early childhood special education services program (Local LEA offices). These programs serve children after their third birthday and are available to every child in Indiana.