Many families referred to early intervention often ask, “What is a service coordinator? What do they do?” The role of the service coordinator is unique, multifaceted, and complex. Service coordination is the only mandated service under Part C of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, and it is provided for every family in early intervention at no cost. A service coordinator works in partnership with the family—from initial referral through transition out of early intervention—to help the family gain access to the early intervention system, identify supports and services that meet the family’s needs, and understand the family’s rights and procedural safeguards.
Service coordinators collaborate with families by exchanging information with families throughout the process. They gather information from families regarding their family and child, including their priorities, strengths, and needs, and they share information with families about the early intervention system, such as its rules, regulations, specific timelines, and services. This exchange of information helps the family make informed decisions.
A service coordinator brings expertise about the early intervention system, including knowledge about rules, regulations, and processes; knowledge about resources, supports, and services available; and knowledge and skills in teaming and collaboration. Each family is linked with a service coordinator who will partner with and support the family.
Some responsibilities include:
- Coordinating and scheduling the intake, screenings, and evaluations/assessments, which includes working with the family to jointly determine how and where they will be done and who will do them. This marks the beginning of a partnership with the family that will continue to grow over time.
- Informing families of their rights and providing examples to support understanding.
- Coordinating and supporting the family in the development of the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), ensuring that the family’s priorities and strengths are reflected in the IFSP.
- Informing the family of available services and how to access them. This entails supporting the family in provider selection and providing referrals to selected providers.
- Coordinating the delivery of services and supports in a timely manner.
- Checking in with the family routinely and ensuring that the family receives the services outlined in the IFSP.
- Coordinating with medical, health, and community providers.
- Developing a transition plan together with the family to continue services after their child turns 3, if appropriate.
- Informing families of advocacy services and supporting families in advocating for their child.
The key to a service coordinator’s work is building a trusting relationship with the family. A service coordinator will take a family-centered approach at all times, acknowledging the family as full and equal team members, recognizing family strengths, and respecting family beliefs and values. This enables families to have access to support and information about their child’s needs, a deeper understanding of their child’s strengths and needs, and access to quality supports that are effective, coordinated, and individualized to their needs.