The Early Start Community


The San Diego Regional Center provides a variety of services to persons with developmental disabilities, their families, and the community.

Any resident of San Diego or Imperial County believed to have a developmental disability may receive intake services through the San Diego Regional Center. Anyone may refer a person suspected of having a developmental disability. Formal application, however, must be made by an adult applicant, parent, conservator or guardian. Residents of Imperial County apply for services at the Regional Center office in Imperial. Residents of San Diego County apply at the headquarters office of the San Diego Regional Center.
The Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Act is the law that gives people with developmental disabilities in California the right to services and supports. It allows clients to live a more independent and fulfilling life. The Lanterman Act begins with section 4500 and runs through section 4846 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code. The Regional Center services provided are based on state law as described in the Lanterman Act. All purchased services must meet both the needs and the choices of each individual person. §§ 4501, 4512(b).

kids looking at fish
Image by Dylan Gillis
Document with Pen


The San Diego Regional Center provides a variety of services to persons with developmental disabilities, their families, and the community.


Assessments are provided during the Intake and Assessment period to establish eligibility for Regional Center services.

Individual Program Plan (IPP) or Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP)

After an individual is found to be eligible for Regional Center services, a written plan is developed. This plan is called the Individual Program Plan (IPP) or Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) for children 0-3 years of age. Both include goals and objectives designed to meet client/family needs.


The primary goal of the San Diego Regional Center is to provide support services that allow the client to live as independently as possible. To achieve this goal, service coordinators assist in securing needed services through community agencies, referral and/or purchase.

Purchase of Services

During the development of the IPP/IFSP, the planning team reviews all available community supports and may purchase services that are necessary and not available through other organizations. These include: 
Adult Day Programs, Behavioral Training, Independent Living Services, Infant Programs & Services, Licensed Residential Placement (parental reimbursement fees may be required for minors), Respite Services, Supported Employment, Supported Living Services, Transportation to Work/Day Program

Community Services

SDRC Community Services staff provide public information, community education and develop needed resources.

Kids in Preschool

Services for Children

Ages 0-3:
Early Intervention Services are based on the needs of the child. Services may include:

Assistive Technology, Audiology, Family Training/Counseling, Medical Services, Nursing Services, Nutrition Services, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Psychological Services, Social Work/ Service Coordination, Speech & Language, Transportation, Vision Services

Ages 3 to Adult:

Behavior Intervention Training, Dental Services (under special circumstances), Medical Services (under special circumstances), Nutrition Services, Nursing Services, Psychological Services, Residential Services (parental fee may be required), Respite, Social Work/Service Coordination, Transportation (under special circumstances)

Man with Down Syndrome Playing Violin

Services for Adults

A Person-Centered Planning approach is used in making decisions regarding where a person with developmental disabilities will live and the kinds of services and supports that may be needed. In person-centered planning, everyone who uses regional center services has a planning team that includes the person utilizing the services, family members, regional center staff and anyone else who is asked to be there by the individual. The team joins together to make sure that the services that people are getting are supporting their choices in where they want to live, how and with whom they choose to spend the day, and hopes and dreams for the future.

Please view the Department of Developmental Services and Initiatives web page for more information.

The Early Start Community



California Early Start is a federally funded program through Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The program is designed to ensure that eligible infants and toddlers and their families receive evaluation and assessment of their current functioning and coordinated services early enough to make a difference in development.

Early intervention services are planned and delivered to help prevent or lessen the need for special services later in the child’s life. The goal is to help answer questions and concerns about each child’s development and to assure that infants and toddlers (ages 0-3 years) meet their highest potential.

Early intervention involves the prompt identification of delays and risk factors and the provision of assistance to eliminate or minimize problems resulting from them. These services are designed to meet the developmental needs of each eligible infant or toddler and the needs of the family related to their development. Services include medical diagnosis/evaluation; physical, occupational and speech therapy; special education instruction; social services, counseling and home visits.

The San Diego Regional Center provides service coordination and evaluations to determine eligibility and Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) development. The IFSP is a family focused, outcome-oriented plan written to address the infant/toddler’s developmental needs and family concerns.


Description of the Early Start program
Picture of service coordinators looking down at the sidewalk


Birth to 3

A service coordinator is assigned to work with the child and family at the time they are referred for evaluation and assessment. They will serve as a primary point of contact for coordinating services and providing assistance to the child and family. The service coordinator is responsible for planning the development of the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and reviewing it with the family and service providers every six months. As the child approaches his or her third birthday, the service coordinator with the IFSP team will develop a plan to transition from Early Start to needed services by the age of 3.

Over Age 3

A service coordinator (also called case manager, social worker, or client program coordinator) is assigned to every person who is a client of the San Diego Regional Center. The service coordinator coordinates all the services provided by the Regional Center and answers any questions or concerns. The services provided by the regional center are individualized and depend upon your needs. Service coordinators assist families to find solutions to these specific needs.

Service coordinators also advocate for the rights of clients. Advocacy has many definitions, but certainly requires an understanding and knowledge of the rights of all citizens, the ability to encourage and support implementation of these rights in any setting, and the willingness to intervene in an appropriate manner when necessary.

Service coordinators meet in person with the clients assigned to their caseload a minimum of once a year to develop the Individualized Program Plan (IPP). The IPP meeting provides the clients and/or family to discuss concerns, future plans, and needs. The IPP can be revised/updated at any time, but MUST be updated annually.

The service coordinator works in partnership with the client and/or family to plan for the needs of the client. If you have concerns about your service coordinator, you are encouraged to contact the Program Manager for that unit and express your concerns. You may ask for another service coordinator to be assigned.

Desk with Stethoscope


The Clinical Services Department provides interdisciplinary consultation for clients, families, SDRC staff, service providers and the San Diego/Imperial County communities.

Clinical Services staff consist of psychology, medical, nursing, behavior, and nutrition specialties. They provide referrals to contracted service providers in the areas of speech/language, pharmacology, oral health, genetics, and physical and occupational therapy.

Clinical Services staff provide continuity in service planning through the lifespan of the client. These services are identified through the IPP/IFSP process. Clients and families can contact their service coordinator to discuss needed services and supports.

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In October of 2013, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed into law the Self-Determination Program, which will provide consumers and their families with more freedom, control, and responsibility in choosing services and supports to help them meet objectives in their Individual Program Plan. This site is designed to allow those interested to follow the progress and learn more about Self-Determination as the program moves toward implementation.

Excerpt from

SDRC Paid Internship Program

Volunteers Serving Food

What is the Paid Internship Program?

Section 4870 was added to the Welfare & Institutions Code to encourage competitive integrated employment (CIE) for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The goals of this program include the acquisition of experience and skills needed for future paid employment, typically in the same job field or industry. Internships can be traditional, or in the form of apprenticeships, including self-employment. The funds provided for the internship are used for wages (minimum wage or higher) as well as the related payroll costs. Each individual client is eligible for up to $10,400.00 per year in an internship and could receive more than one internship.

Image of sticky notes by Patrick Perkins

Who is Eligible?

Any San Diego Regional Center client who is eligible for employment (18 and older) with eligibility to work and expresses a desire to be employed (either part-time or full-time). Clients also need to be able to travel independently or have some dependable transportation (ADA Paratransit, Uber/Lyft, family member, etc.).

Regional centers are now permitted to provide paid internships to transition-aged students aged 18-22 based on a need determined by both the IEP and IPP planning teams.

Two Men Shaking Hands

 How Does it Work?

Through the IPP team meeting, the client expresses a desire to work and ideally shows the motivation to obtain competitive integrated employment.

The IPP team needs to identify the following:

a) Purpose of the internship (learning work-related tasks and/or appropriate communication skills, gaining practical work experience for resume development, obtaining competency in a selected trade, or preparation to start a business).

b) An approved agency/vendor who will facilitate the internship placement and on-going supports.

c) Number of hours for the internship (25, 50, 100, etc.), proposed weekly schedule, and completion date.

d) Goals for the IPP or IPP Addendum (one for the paid internship, one for the on-going agency supports).

e) SDRC uses an FMS/Co-Employer agency (24Hr HomeCare) that manages the internship funding and pays the intern the wages. They also handle all of the related payroll costs, Workers Compensation, and will provide SDRC annual data on the internships.



24Hr HomeCare – PY0941

The advantages of using an FMS/Co-Employer are many, primarily to relieve the actual employer or our vendor from becoming the “employer–of-record”; however, it does require more forms and documents to complete initially, and most of these have to be signed by the participant/client.

For more information contact John Filley, Resource Coordinator (Community Services).