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  • Melissa Santander

Free Therapy Services in California

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Empowering Families: Regional Center's Self-Determination Program - Accessing Free Therapy Services

In the journey of raising a child with a developmental disorder, families often face various challenges in accessing essential services like speech, occupational, and physical therapy. Fortunately, the Regional Center's Self-Determination Program offers a unique opportunity for families to take control of their child's therapeutic journey. This article explores the significance of the Self-Determination Program and provides guidance on how to apply and secure free therapy services for children with developmental disorders.

Speech Therapy

Understanding the Regional Center and

the Self-Determination Program:

Regional Centers play a pivotal role in supporting individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. These centers are nonprofit private corporations that contract with the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to provide services and supports.

The Self-Determination Program, introduced in 2018, empowers families by allowing them to make decisions about the services and supports their child receives. This program shifts the traditional service model, putting families in the driver's seat to design a personalized plan tailored to the unique needs of their child.

Why Choose Self-Determination?

Speech Therapy

1. Tailored Services:

   - One of the key advantages of the Self-Determination Program is the ability to design a customized plan that aligns with the child's specific needs. Families can prioritize speech, occupational, and physical therapy based on the child's developmental goals.

2. Flexibility and Control:

   - Self-Determination provides families with greater flexibility and control over service providers, schedules, and therapeutic approaches. This autonomy empowers parents to choose the most suitable therapies for their child.

Speech Therapy

3. Collaborative Decision-Making:

   - The program fosters collaboration between families, regional centers, and service providers. By working together, families can create a comprehensive plan that addresses not only therapeutic needs but also other aspects of the child's life.


How to Apply for the Self-Determination Program:

1. Eligibility Assessment:

   - Contact your regional center to determine eligibility for the Self-Determination Program. Eligibility is generally based on age, diagnosis, and the child's developmental needs.

2. Attend Informational Sessions:

   - Participate in informational sessions offered by the regional center to understand the program's details, benefits, and responsibilities.

3. Create a Person-Centered Plan:

   - Work with the regional center to create a person-centered plan that outlines the child's goals, preferences, and the desired services, including speech, occupational, and physical therapy.

4. Budget Development:

   - Collaborate with the regional center to develop a budget that allocates funds for the chosen therapies. The budget should be realistic and aligned with the child's individualized plan.


Seeking Assistance: Navigating the Self-Determination Program Enrollment

Enrolling in California's Self-Determination Program can be a transformative journey for families raising children with developmental disorders. While the program empowers parents to take charge of their child's services, seeking assistance from specialized services or companies can streamline the enrollment process.

Here are some resources to consider:

1. Family Resource Centers:

   - Family Resource Centers across California are invaluable hubs for information and support. These centers often provide workshops, training sessions, and personalized guidance on navigating the Self-Determination Program. Families can locate their nearest center through the [California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) website](

2. Regional Center Support:

   - Regional Centers themselves are essential resources for families. They offer guidance on eligibility, informational sessions, and support in creating person-centered plans. Reach out to your local Regional Center to inquire about specific services available to assist with the Self-Determination Program enrollment.

3. Parent Advocacy Organizations:

   - Parent advocacy organizations, such as the [California Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs)](, can offer valuable insights into the enrollment process. These organizations often have knowledgeable staff who can provide assistance and connect families with relevant resources.

4. Service Coordination Agencies:

   - Some agencies specialize in providing service coordination and support for families navigating programs like Self-Determination. They can assist in developing budgets, understanding the funding process, and connecting families with qualified service providers. Examples include Inclusion Services ( and California Community Transitions (CCT) (

5. Online Platforms and Consultancies:

   - Several online platforms and consultancies offer guidance on special education and disability services. Websites like Disability Rights California ( and California Disability Community Action Network (CDCAN) ( provide information and support for families navigating the complexities of the Self-Determination Program.

Before engaging with any service or company, it's essential to verify their credibility and ensure that they have experience and expertise in assisting families with developmental disabilities. Taking advantage of these resources can empower parents to navigate the enrollment process smoothly, making the most of the opportunities provided by California's Self-Determination Program.



The Regional Center's Self-Determination Program is a beacon of hope for families navigating the complexities of raising a child with a developmental disorder. By embracing this program, families can actively participate in shaping their child's therapeutic journey, ensuring access to vital services such as speech, occupational, and physical therapy. Empowered with flexibility and control, parents can contribute to their child's holistic development, fostering a brighter future for individuals with developmental disabilities.

Written by:

Eat Speak Breathe Speech Therapy

Melissa Santander, MS CCC-SLP

Speech-Language Pathologist

dba Eat Speak Breathe


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