How to Make a Referral

First Steps offers coordinated services and assistance to young children with special needs and their families. First Steps is designed for children, birth to age 3, who have delayed development or diagnosed conditions that are associated with developmental disabilities.

The First Steps Goal is the same as yours: To make sure that families have the necessary supports, services, and resources that they need to raise healthy, happy and successful children. First Steps works with Missouri families of children age birth to three by ensuring that coordinated services are provided as conveniently as possible. Participation in First Steps is voluntary.

For complete information about First Steps, refer to the state regulations under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Through these regulations, which include detailed information about the rights of children and parents who participate in First Steps, Missouri receives federal funding to support the First Steps program. The regulations also define confidentiality provisions, under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), that apply to First Steps.

First Steps General Information Brochure - English | Spanish

Who is Eligible?

Children between the ages of birth to 36 months who either 1) have a diagnosed physical or mental condition associated with developmental disabilities (such as Down syndrome, spina bifida or cerebral palsy), or 2) have a condition associated with a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay or disability (such as a very low birth weight child who has experienced intracranial bleeding or ventilator dependency), or 3) are functioning at half the developmental level expected for a child of equal age in one or more of the following areas: communication, adaptive, physical (including vision and hearing), cognitive or social/emotional. For the full description, please see the First Steps Eligibility Criteria.

Who can make a referral?

The state regulations outline which individuals and agencies may refer a child to First Steps. These identified individuals and agencies are called “primary referral sources.” The First Steps primary referral sources include:

  • Parents;
  • Physicians;
  • Hospitals, including prenatal and postnatal care facilities;
  • Child-care programs and early learning programs;
  • Local educational agencies (including special education and Parents as Teachers) and schools;
  • Public health facilities;
  • Other public health or social service agencies;
  • Other clinics and health care providers;
  • Public agencies and staff in the child welfare system, including child protective service and foster care;
  • Homeless family shelters; and,
  • Domestic violence shelters and agencies.
Make a Referral
  • Enter a referral online
  • Call 866-583-2392 Ext. 3 to be connected to the SPOE in your area, or visit the SPOE Regions Map to find the contact information for the SPOE in your area.
  • Complete a General Referral Form and send it to the SPOE office where the child lives
  • For Neonatal Intensive Care Units only, complete a NICU Referral Form and send it to the SPOE office where the child lives