If you feel that your young child may have a developmental delay, serious health condition, or disability, you can access help with early intervention. Early intervention is a comprehensive system of services coordinated to assist babies and young children who have developmental disabilities, delays, and certain illnesses. It helps these little ones learn the skills that normally develop over the first three years of life. These milestones are:
- physical: rolling, reaching, crawling, walking;
- cognitive: learning, thinking, solving problems;
- social/emotional: feeling happy and secure, playing;
- communication: listening, talking, understanding; and
- self-help: dressing, eating.
What Early Intervention Services Are Available?
If your baby or toddler has a developmental delay or disability in any of these areas, she may qualify for early intervention services. The services will be individualized to meet your little one’s needs for help with:
- assistive devices;
- language and speech;
- hearing or audiology;
- family counseling and training;
- medical and nursing;
- nutrition; and
- physical therapy.
You may be able to benefit from family-oriented services that educate family members about your child’s special needs and how to reinforce her development. Early intervention services specialists can help you uncover and manage your child’s health conditions in ways that help her grow and thrive.
Who Funds Early Intervention?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) makes early intervention available in every U.S. state and territory. The Grants for Infants and Families (Part C) of IDEA requires it, so this program is often called “Part C”. Part C disburses formula grants to states and territories to promote the implementation of coordinated interagency programs for early intervention.
How Would My Child Qualify for Early Intervention?
Early intervention services are set up to assist infants and toddlers who are experiencing a developmental delay or disability. An evaluation — with the parents’ consent — determines eligibility. Children who qualify may be entitled to early intervention services from birth until their third birthday (and beyond in some cases).
From birth: Sometimes it is apparent when a child is born that early intervention services will be critical to the child’s growth and development. This child’s parents may receive a referral before taking the child home.
Delays or setbacks: Some children’s health issues develop as they grow, or they may suffer a setback. A comprehensive examination with a developmental pediatrician could result in a referral for early intervention.
My Child Is or Is Not Eligible for Early Intervention — Now What?
You will receive an Individualized Family Service Plan if your state determines that your child would benefit from early intervention. Specialists with your state’s program will help you devise this plan for the goals and kinds of services that will be best for your child and your family. If your child is not eligible, you can still advocate for her.
You do not need to wait for a referral if you are concerned about your child’s progress. You can reach out to your local program and request a free evaluation for her. Early intervention services can help her reach her greatest potential with vital multi-faceted support for her and your family.