What is first connections?
The First Connections Program is a statewide system of services to assist infants and toddlers and their families. Children grow, learn, and develop at different rates and in different ways. Just as children are all individuals, families also have different abilities and needs. The First Connections Program works with families on an individualized basis to assist in locating and coordination services and assistance to enhance not only the child’s abilities but also those of the family to assist their child.
The First Connections Program is authorized and funded through Part C of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. The Department of Human Services (DHS) is the Lead Agency for the Program. The Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) is the division within DHS, which has administrative responsibility for implementation of the program.
Who can be a part of the program?Children ages birth to thirty-six months who:
- Have a developmental delay in one or more areas of development. This delay must be 25% or more of their chronological age.
- Have a medical diagnosis that has a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay.
What can the program do to help?
The program helps locate, coordinate, and fund an array of 16 services to assist the child in developing to his or her fullest potential. These include:
- Assistive Technology
- Speech Therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Special Instruction
- Service Coordination
- Health Services
- Social Work Services
- Nutritional Services
- Vision Services
- Multi-Disciplinary Evaluation
- Medical Diagnostic Services
- Psychological Services
- Nursing Services
- Family Training, Counseling and Home Visits
The program also provides supportive services to families to assist them in understanding their child’s developmental abilities and helping to assist their child in developing. Services provided through the First Connections Program are:
- Free to eligible infants & toddlers and their families
- Voluntary on the part of the family
- Provided by qualified professionals who meet state licensing requirement
The Primary Service Provider (PSP) ModelIn July of 2014, Arkansas Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS), the lead agency for the Arkansas First Connections Early Intervention Program (EI) sent out a memo to families enrolled in the program as well as contracted therapy providers notifying them that the current EI model allowing direct and separate therapy services to the children in the program would be replaced with a PSP model. This model is a common practice in Early Intervention programs across the United States.
What is the PSP approach to teaming?
The operational definition of the PSP approach to teaming is found in the 2010 text Working With Families of Young Children With Special Needs:
An established team consisting of multiple disciplines that meets regularly and selects one member as the primary service provider who receives coaching and support from other team members, and uses coaching as an interaction style with parents and other care providers to support and strengthen their confidence and competence in promoting child learning and development and obtaining desired supports and resources in natural learning environments.
Pediatrics Plus currently provides direct therapy services to children through the Early Intervention program. Once the transition to the PSP model is complete, Pediatrics Plus will work with the Arkansas Early Intervention program, First Connections, to develop a PSP team to continue to serve children and families in Arkansas with the new model.