Making Choices


Infants and toddlers from birth to 36 months may be eligible for early intervention services if through documented evaluation and assessment they meet one of the criteria listed below:

  1. have a developmental delay in either cognitive, communication, social or emotional, adaptive, or physical and motor development including vision and hearing; or
  2. have established risk conditions of known etiology, with a high probability of resulting in delayed development; or
  3. are at high risk of having a substantial developmental disability due to a combination of risk factors.

Early intervention services that are needed for each eligible infant or toddler are purchased or arranged by a regional center or a local education agency.

California Government Code: Section 95014(a)  Department of Developmental Services website (

Web Resources

Department of Developmental Services (DDS) This site describes the Early Start system that provides early intervention services to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families in a coordinated, family-centered network.
California Department of Education Locating Special Education in your area(


In California, children and youth ages three to twenty-two may receive services from both a regional center and their local school district.

Regional centers provide diagnosis and assessment of eligibility and help plan, access, coordinate and monitor the services and supports that are needed because of a developmental disability. There is no charge for the diagnosis and eligibility assessment.  Once eligibility is determined, a case manager or service coordinator is assigned to help develop a plan for services, tell you where services are available, and help you get the services. Most services and supports are free regardless of age or income. (

For children and youth, ages age 3 through 21, special education and related services are provided through the school system. These services can be very important in helping children and youth with disabilities develop, learn, and succeed in school and other settings.

Under the law, students with disabilities have a right to be educated in the regular education classroom with their peers without disabilities.  Education in regular education settings implies more than just physical presence; it includes access to the curriculum that is taught in the regular education classroom.

Who is Eligible for Services?

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), states are responsible for meeting the special needs of eligible children with disabilities. To find out if a child is eligible for services, he or she must first receive a full and individual initial evaluation. This evaluation is free. Two purposes of the evaluation are:

  • to see if the child has a disability, as defined by IDEA, and
  • to learn in more detail what his or her special needs are.   NICHCY

The services that your child receives from your school district’s Special Education department are guided by the Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  The following resources can provide you with information about the IEP process.


Special Education

California Department of Education Locating Special Education  in your area



Web Resources

California Department of Education IEP – Special Programs – Special Education – Services and Resources – Training and Technical Assistance Opportunities – IEP Template Forms
California Department of Education Resources on IEPs for Children with Disabilities
California Department of Education Parent’s Rights in Special Education


 Books, Videos and DVDs

Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy: The Special Education Survival Guide 
Autism: Asserting Your Child’s Right to a Special Education (Sherman)
Navigating the Special Education Maze: A guide for parents and teachers  (Hayden)


Asperger Syndrome: Success in the Mainstream Classroom
Tool Kit On Teaching And Assessing Students With Disabilities: Parents’ Materials Tool Kit On Teaching And Assessing Students With Disabilities: Parents’ Materials ( – FREE)  Phone: 1-877-4ED-PUBS

Other school topics

 Books, Videos and DVDs

Teaching Children with Autism:  Strategies for Initiating Positive Interactions and Improving Learning Opportunities (Koegel & Koegel) (1995)
All About Autism (National Professional Resources Inc) – DVD
Asperger Syndrome & Adolescence:  Practical Solutions for School Success (Myles  &  Adron –  2001 – Autism / Aspergers Publishing Company)
Asperger Syndrome:  A Practical Guide for Teachers (Cumine, Leach, Stevenson, Stevenson)  (1999)
1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders  (Nothbohm & Zysk, 2004)
Educating Children with Autism (National Research Council or Catherine Lord)  0309072697
Homeschooling the Child with Asperger’s Syndrome: Real Help for Parents Anywhere on Any Budget ( Pyles, 2004)
Educational Autism Tips for Families   (Sayers)

Therapies / interventions / services

Description of range of services, therapies and interventions

Symptoms and behaviors of autism can combine in many ways and vary in severity. In addition, individual symptoms and behaviors often change over time. For these reasons, treatment strategies are tailored to individual needs and available family resources. In general, however, children with autism respond best to highly structured and specialized treatment. A program that addresses helping parents and improving communication, social, behavioral, adaptive, and learning aspects of a child’s life will be most successful. WebMD

Because there is a wide range of therapies, services and interventions that are available to your child and family, choosing one may be the most difficult decision you will make.  The one constant in choosing an intervention for your child and family is the fact that there is no one “correct” choice.  As every child is unique, so are their needs and their intervention plan.  When considering any type of treatment, it is important to know the source of information and to ensure that studies are scientifically sound. Accounts of individual success are not sufficient evidence to support using a treatment. Look for large, controlled studies to validate claims.


How do I choose the right services, therapies and interventions for my child and family?

When you or your child has a developmental disability, you hear about a lot of different types of treatment or therapy.  These may be treatments you read in the paper, find on the Internet, or are told about  by friends or professionals.  Some of these treatments are well researched and others are not.  Sometimes it is hard to figure out what may be good for you or your child.  Here are some things that you can think about before trying a new treatment option.

  • Has research been carried-out on this treatment?  Good research tells us if something works and what the risks are.  Good research can be “reproduced” – someone else can do the same study and get the same results.
  • Was the research published in a professional journal?  Professional journals have very high standards for publishing research information.  If it is published in a journal, a team has reviewed the information and believes that it was good research.
  • Were there double blind studies? Double blind studies are medication trials where neither the doctor giving the medication or the person receiving the medication know if it is the actual medication or a placebo.  Double blind studies are considered the most reliable way of testing medications.
  • What are the risks?  It is important to know if the benefit of a treatment is worth the risks or side effects.
  • Does this treatment make sense to me?  It is important to use a treatment that you feel good about.  If someone is recommending something that you don’t feel comfortable with, ask questions until you either feel better or know that this isn’t the treatment for you or your child?
  • Does it seem too good to be true?  Does it make claims to cure developmental disabilities or to be a treatment for many things. Does it say that it is 100% effective? These are usually claims that aren’t true.
  • Is this something I can afford or easily obtain.  It is hard to use a treatment that you can’t afford or easily find.
  • What will your family’s involvement beWill it fit into our family’s life?  How many hours per day / week will the program require?  Is there a cost to my family?

Learn about the available programs by visiting, talking to parents who are involved, talking with providers and by doing your own research.  Your localEarlyStartFamilyResourceCenter( may be able to assist you.  Other questions that you may wish to consider:

Consumers can always obtain contact information through a search engine like “Google” for their local “ College of Physicians and Surgeons” to check credentials of physicians


Parent Recommended Starter Kit


Web Resources

California Department of Developmental Services – Autistic Spectrum Disorders Guidelines for Effective Intervention,  to be released in fall 2009


Books, Videos and DVDs

Autistic Spectrum Disorders Guidelines for Effective Intervention (California Department of Developmental Services,  2009)
Autism Spectrum Disorders in Infants and Toddlers, Diagnosis, Assessment and Treatment (Chawarska, Klin, Volkmer, 2008)
Targeting Autism:  What We Know, Don’t Know and Can Do to Help Young Children with Autism and Related Disorders.  (Cohen,  2002)  University of CA Press
World of the Autistic Child:  Understanding and Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders  (Siegel, 1998)
Controversial Therapies for Developmental Disabilities:  Fad, Fashion and Science in Professional Practice.  (Jacobsen, Fox, Mulick, 2005)


Types of Interventions

The different types of treatments that you may encounter generally fall into the following categories:

Behavioral training and management. Behavioral training and management uses positive reinforcement, self-help, and social skills training to improve behavior and communication. Many types of treatments have been developed, including Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH), and sensory integration.

Specialized therapies. These include speech, occupational, and physical therapy. These therapies are important components of managing autism and should all be included in various aspects of the child’s treatment program. Speech therapy can help a child with autism improve language and social skills to communicate more effectively. Occupational and physical therapy can help improve any deficiencies in coordination and motor skills. Occupational therapy may also help a child with autism to learn to process information from the senses (sight, sound, hearing, touch, and smell) in more manageable ways.

Medications. Medications are most commonly used to treat related conditions and problem behaviors, including depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

For information on the research behind these interventions, please refer to “ASD Best Practices Guidelines for Effective Intervention”, due for publication in fall 2009 by the California Department of Developmental Services. (


Parent Recommended Starter Kit


 Books, Videos and DVDs 

A Work in Progress – Behavior Management strategies and a curriculum for Intensive Behavioral Treatment of Autism (Leaf, McEachin, Dayhash, Boehm) (0966526600)
Autism / Aspergers:  Solving the Relationship Puzzle (Gotstein) (2001)
Autism Early Intervention Fast Facts  (Raun Melmed  2008)
Autism:  Now What?  A Primer for Parents  (Collins & Collins) (2002)
Do-Watch-Listen-Say   (Quill – 2000)
Embracing Play: Teaching Your Child with Autism (Baldi & Detmers) (2003) – DVD
Floor Time:  Tuning in to Each Child (Stanley Greenspan) – DVD
Introduction to Sensory Integration (Nan Arkwright) (1999)
Introduction to Theory of the Mind (Peter Mitchell)
Overcoming Autism – Finding the Answers, Strategies and Hope That Can Transform a Child’s Life (Koegel & LaZebnik)
PECS:  The Picture Exchange Information System (video) (Bondy & Froust) – DVD
Problems in Autism:  Improving Communication with Visual Strategies (hodgdon)
Healthcare for Children on the Autism Spectrum:  A Guide to Medical, Nutritional and Behavioral Issues F.R. Volkmar  L.A. Wiesner.  Woodbine House 2004