What’s Next: Discovering My Child has a Disability

By Andrea Fenwick 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 6 children, or about 17% of children from ages 3 to 17, have one or more developmental disabilities. Being a parent is difficult enough, but when you discover your child might have a disability, your journey as a parent goes from difficult to extremely daunting.  

What do I do nowWhat are the steps I should take to ensure my child receives the necessary services to improve their overall outcomes for independence and a meaningful life? 

First things first, you must contact a medical professional for screening to determine if your child does in fact have a documented disability. You can start with your child’s pediatrician who will then determine if a referral is needed for further testing and point you in the right direction. 

Once you have a confirmed diagnosis by a healthcare professional, you can move forward in researching and attaining resources and services to help your child at every stage of their developmental years through adulthood. Here are a few to look into: 

  • Child Find – part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)Child Find requires school districts to have a process for identifying and evaluating children who may need special education and related services, such as counseling or speech therapy. Even infants and toddlers can be evaluated and could then receive help for learning disabilities and developmental delays through the government’s early intervention programs. 
  • Family Supports Waiver – through the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA)Medicaid waivered programs such as the Family Supports Waiver help individuals to live more independently in their homes and communities. The program provides a variety of support services that promote community living, including a self-directed service model and traditional, agency-based service model  

Jewish Community services believes every individual has unique abilities and we are committed to providing the services, support, and resources that empower individuals with disabilities to grow, learn, work, and participate fully in community life.  

JCS’ Ignite Career Center has released a four-part series of videos titled Different Stages for Different Ages: Navigating for Children with Varying Abilities* to help families raising children who have developmental delays and disabilities. From infancy through the teen years and into adulthood, the videos provide a roadmap for how loved ones and caregivers can help their children get the resources to succeed throughout life and become who they are meant to be.  

The breadth and depth of information available might seem overwhelming, but don’t be discouraged, the JCS Ignite Career Center’s Employment Support Services is here to help. 


*The series was made possible by The Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council, supported, in part, by grant number CFDA 93.630, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services. 


Management Staff - Jewish Community Services

Andrea Fenwick is the Senior Manager of Employment Support Services at the JCS Ignite Career Center.   

Whether you are new to the job market or a seasoned professional, the Ignite Career Center, a program of Jewish Community Services, can help you go further and get there faster. Our highly experienced Career Coaches provide individuals of all backgrounds and abilities with the customized services and tools they need to stand out from the competition. For more information, call 410-466-9200 or visit ignitecareercenter.com.

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