Skip to main content

Early Intervention and Special Education Services

The Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program’s goal is to assist children with heart disease and their families in reaching the best outcomes in all areas of development and quality of life. This includes helping families access free and appropriate services for their infants, children or adolescents with physical, developmental, learning or behavioral needs. This page reviews the types of resources and interventions available in the community, along with contact information for specific programs.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

IDEA is a federal law that protects the rights of children with disabilities in the school setting. The law requires that all children with special needs have access to free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Disabilities that are covered under IDEA include cognitive (thinking and learning), sensory, communication, physical, social or emotional.


Ages 0-3 years:

Early Intervention Program: Local and free for children with developmental delays or disabilities under the age of 3.

Kansas: Infant-Toddler Services

Missouri: First Steps

Steps to get started:

  1. Infants and children may be referred to the program by their doctor or parents may call.
  2. Complete evaluation to determine what types of interventions they qualify for and how frequently those interventions will be applied.
  3. Those who qualify may receive physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy and other services including behavioral intervention. Services are typically provided in the home setting.

Ages 3 years and up:

Free services provided in preschool, elementary and secondary school for children who have disabilities and need specialized educational services.

Steps to get started:

  1. Teachers or parents may request an evaluation through the school district.
  2. Determination is made about whether children qualify for services under either an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan.

Differences between IEP and 504 plans





  • A legal document that is developed collaboratively between school personnel and the child’s parents/legal guardians to make sure the child’s educational needs are met.

  • An IEP must establish measurable annual goals for a child with special educational needs, and must document the specific educational and related interventions and accommodations that the public school will provide to, or on behalf of, the child.

  • An IEP is recommended for a child who needs both interventions and accommodations to be successful in the school setting.
  • Refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This is a federal law that protects individuals from discrimination based on their disability. Individuals with disabilities are defined under this law as: “persons who have or have a history of a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities.” (Section 504 Fact Sheet, Department of Health and Human Services, 2006).

  • Children who qualify include those with medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, as well as children with behavioral disorders such as ADHD/ADD or neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism.

  • Children who qualify as having a disability will automatically be protected under Section 504.

  • Not all students will also qualify for an IEP.

  • A 504 plan is recommended for any child who does not have significant learning difficulties, but who needs supports and accommodations for school.

IEP examples

An IEP is appropriate for a child who has a reading disorder and may include interventions for reading such as separate instructional time apart from the regular class, along with accommodations to support comprehension, such as recorded texts or extra time in class to practice.

An IEP for a child who has a speech/language disorder may include an intervention of separate instructional time for formal speech therapy during the school week, and may also include accommodations in the form of augmentative communication tools (such as a picture board or electronic device) to help the child communicate more easily in class.

504 examples

A child with congenital heart disease may benefit from a 504 plan so that he is not counted as truant because of multiple missed school days due to illness and/or doctor’s visits, or because he may not be able to complete all the assigned physical activity required in physical education class.

A child may also benefit from a 504 plan because he has ADHD and needs extra time to complete assignments, a reduced homework load, extra classroom breaks and/or seating away from classroom distractions.

How we can help

The Cardiac Neurodevelopmental (CND) Team is here to help families gain access to services and advocate for their children’s needs. In addition to providing neurodevelopmental and neuropsychological evaluations which may be used as part of a program’s or school’s evaluation process, we are available to consult with schools and assist with IEP or 504 planning. Please reach out to us at (816) 264-3880.

Useful contact information

Children’s Mercy Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program
Phone: (816) 264-3880

Parent advocacy groups

Families Together Inc.
Kansas parent training and information, and family-to-family health information resource for children with disabilities and/or special health care needs

Wichita phone:
(316) 945-7747

Topeka phone:
(785) 233-4777

Garden City phone:
(620) 276-6364

En Español phone:
(800) 499-9443

Missouri Parent Advocacy Programs
Missouri Parents Act (MPACT)
Phone: (800) 743-7634