Regional Center Eligibility and Services After Age 3: Transition from Early Intervention to Lanterman Act

Article
Aug. 14, 2020Updated Nov. 11, 2022

Prior to age three, children across California can receive early intervention services from Regional Centers if they have been diagnosed with, or are at risk for, developmental delays or developmental disabilities. Early intervention for children under age three is mandated by Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal law governing special education. Many children receive occupational, physical, and speech therapy from the Regional Center during this time, along with other early intervention services.

Once a child turns three, the child’s school district of residence becomes responsible for providing special education services under IDEA. The transition progress begins several months before the child turns three, so that an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is in place with the school district by the child’s third birthday, which is the day the Regional Center early intervention services end.

Eligibility for Regional Center services

Some children will be eligible for continued Regional Center services under the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Act after they turn three years old, if they have been diagnosed with a developmental disability as defined by California law.

To be eligible for Regional Center services after age three, a child must have a substantial disability that begins before age 18 and is expected to continue indefinitely. Eligible disabilities include cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, intellectual disability, and other conditions closely related to intellectual disability or that require similar treatment. However, a diagnosis alone is insufficient for eligibility; the child’s disability must be “substantial.” A “substantial” disability is one in which the person has impairments (defined in comparison to the expectations for a typical person of the same age) in at least three of the following areas: communication skills (receptive and expressive language), learning abilities, self-care, mobility, self-direction, independent living skills, and economic self-sufficiency.

During the transition process, the Regional Center will determine whether your child is eligible to remain a consumer under the Lanterman Act. If you disagree with the Regional Center’s determination, you have the right to file a request for a hearing to appeal their decision. See this article for more information on the appeal process.

If Regional Center determines that your child is not eligible for continued services under the Lanterman Act, ask whether your child can receive provisional eligibility status, which allows them to continue Regional Center services until age five. Undivided's Public Benefits Specialist, Lisa Concoff Kronbeck, says that if your child is switched to provisional eligibility status at age three or four, you should ask why they are not being switched to full eligibility under the Lanterman Act.

Services provided by Regional Center

Medi-Cal and Copayment Assistance

When your child turns three years old, ask Regional Center about enrolling your child in Medi-Cal. Through California’s Medi-Cal institutional deeming waiver for individuals with developmental disabilities, many Regional Center clients are able to enroll in full-scope Medi-Cal (i.e., Medi-Cal that includes the full range of covered benefits and not just emergency services) without regard to parental income, so long as the child’s personal income and resource levels fall below program thresholds. For more information, please see this article about the Medi-Cal waiver.

Regional Center can also help with copayments in certain situations. Learn more here.

Additional reading about your child's rights

For a user-friendly but comprehensive discussion of consumers’ rights under the Lanterman Act, please take a look at Disability Rights California’s publication, “Rights Under the Lanterman Act.”

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Contents


Overview

Eligibility for Regional Center services

Services provided by Regional Center

Medi-Cal and Copayment Assistance

Additional reading about your child's rights

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