Regional Centers Offer Expansion of Services to Some Three- and Four-Year-Olds
Some three- and four-year-olds who have aged out of early intervention services will now receive provisional eligibility for continued Regional Center services under the Lanterman Act until their fifth birthday. This is not an extension of early intervention services, but an expansion of access to services under the Lanterman Act.
Children across California receive early intervention services from Regional Centers if they have been diagnosed with, or are at risk for, developmental delays or developmental disabilities, as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Once a child turns three, the child’s school district of residence becomes responsible for providing special education services under IDEA.
However, some children who have been diagnosed with a developmental disability as defined by California law are eligible for continued Regional Center services under the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Act after they turn three years old. The scope of Regional Center services after age three is significantly different from what is provided through early intervention. Many services that are available through early intervention (such as speech, physical, and occupational therapies) are not funded for school-age children under the Lanterman Act because the school district bears the financial responsibility for providing those services.
In the past, continued Regional Center eligibility was not available to children over three without a formal diagnosis. However, some developmental disabilities are particularly challenging to diagnose in toddlers, and many children have experienced a gap in crucial services because they aged out of early intervention before a firm diagnosis could be determined.
Effective July 1, 2021, the statute outlining Regional Center eligibility now includes a provisional category for children ages three and four who do not meet the standard criteria but who still have a disability that is not solely physical in nature. These children will be provisionally eligible for Regional Center services under the Lanterman Act if they have significant functional limitations in at least two of the listed areas of major life activity:
- Receptive and expressive language
Children who are provisionally eligible will be reassessed 90 days prior to their fifth birthday to determine whether they will remain eligible at age five.
As a result of this change, three- and four-year-olds who are provisionally eligible will have access to the same range of services available to children whose Lanterman eligibility is confirmed at age three. See our article here to learn more about the available services.
At this time, it remains unclear whether children who are provisionally eligible will have access to the institutional deeming waiver that allows children with developmental disabilities to enroll in Medi-Cal without regard to family income. It’s likely that children in this category will not qualify based on the waiver criteria.
We will provide more information as soon as we have it.