Manuel E. Jimenez, M.D., Frances K. Barg, Ph.D., M.Ed., James P. Guevara, M.D., M.P.H., Marsha Gerdes, Ph.D., Alexander G. Fiks, M.D., M.S.C.E.
M. E. Jimenez, F. K. Barg, J. P. Guevara, et al., “Barriers to Evaluation for Early Intervention Services: Parent and Early Intervention Employee Perspectives,” Academic Pediatrics, Nov.–Dec. 2012 12(6):551–57.
Pediatricians are encouraged to refer parents of infants and toddlers with developmental delays to government-funded, early intervention programs that can improve outcomes, reduce behavioral problems, and help families care better for their children. Yet despite the clear benefits of early intervention, up to 90 percent of eligible children never receive these services. Commonwealth Fund–funded researchers designed this study to find out why so many children referred to early intervention services are not evaluated and to determine how to make the referral process more successful.
The researchers interviewed parents of children who had undergone evaluation and parents of children who had not, as well as early intervention staff. The interviews identified five common barriers:
Effective communication between pediatricians and families is the most important factor in bridging the gap between the number of children identified with developmental delays and the number evaluated for early intervention services. The researchers recommend that pediatricians be trained in shared decision-making techniques that acknowledge parents’ expertise and involve them more actively in care decisions. Pediatricians should also better educate themselves and parents about the referral process.