What Is Early Intervention In Special Ed?
Early Intervention (EI) is a publicly funded special education program available in every state to support babies and toddlers up to 3 years old who experience delays. Whether it’s a delay in any area of development or a more significant disability like Down Syndrome, early signs of autism, or physical impairment. EI incorporates a wide range of services including speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and behavioral therapy. Because most of these services are publicly funded, children who are determined to need EI can access them for free or at a reduced cost.
What Are The Goals Of Early Intervention In Toddlers?
Early Intervention in toddlers can help a child catch up in development if they are behind or show signs of developmental delays or missing milestones. EI can make a big difference in the child's quality of life and can help ensure the child reaches their full potential and gets the support they need before starting elementary school.
Why is EI important?
According to the CDC, early intervention can have a significant impact. Developmental interventions will have the most impact the earlier they are provided, and can change your child’s developmental trajectory. These interventions include developmental services like speech, occupational and developmental therapy. For infant and toddler milestones, in particular, early intervention can help your child catch up in their development when the gap is much smaller. And, since EI prioritizes a family-centered approach, it equips the family with the skills they need to help care for and respond to their child’s needs.
How do I get my child evaluated for EI services?
You know your child better than anyone. While every child develops at their own pace, it’s important to monitor your child’s developmental milestones to ensure everything is on track. These milestones reflect a general pattern of child development and may not always exactly align with your own child’s growth. But they can also help parents identify if a child is showing signs of delay.
If you or your child’s provider has concerns about your child’s development or you think your child is falling behind, you can reach out to your state’s EI program to request an evaluation – you do not need a referral from a pediatrician. Connect with the early intervention program in your state.
EI only serves children ages 0 to 3 years old. For children age 3 and older, the local school district assumes responsibility for evaluating and meeting a child’s needs through preschool special education services. Your EI service coordinator will facilitate the transition process from EI to school-based services as your child nears age 3.
What areas of development does an EI Evaluation look at?
An EI evaluation determines your child’s strengths and areas of need across eight key areas of development:
1. Physical Development And Overall Health
Are there significant health concerns? Were there issues with pregnancy/labor/delivery? Was the child born full-term? Is the child taking any medications?
Are there any suspected issues with the child’s vision that could impact development? Has the child seen an eye doctor yet? Can the child pass a vision screening?
Are there suspected issues with hearing? Can the child pass a hearing screening? The child may benefit from a comprehensive audiological examination to rule out hearing concerns (especially if communication is noted to be delayed).
4. Fine And Gross Motor Skills
Can the child participate in age-appropriate motor activities? Are there issues with movement during daily activities or play?
5. Cognitive Development
Does the child engage in reasoning and problem-solving skills considered appropriate for his or her age?
6. Communication Development
Can the child communicate at a level appropriate for his or her age?
7. Social And Emotional Development
Are there behavioral concerns in the home or community settings? Does the child engage in age appropriate social and play skills?
8. Adaptive Behavior
Is the child able to participate in age-appropriate activities of daily living (e.g., eating, dressing, sleeping, etc.)?
What If My Child Qualifies For EI Services?
If your child has been determined eligible for EI services, you will be assigned a service coordinator. Please keep in mind that every state manages their early intervention program differently and may use different terminology. Together, you will develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).
An IFSP outlines:
- Your child’s EI services based on your child’s current level of functioning in those eight key areas of development
- Desired outcomes and details on the services your child will receive and how those services will be implemented
- A statement of your family’s resources and your child’s needs.
Family input is an incredibly important to the EI evaluation process, understanding a learning disorder diagnosis in your child, and creation of the IFSP. If other service providers, outside of the EI team, are working with the child, it may also be beneficial for the IFSP coordinator to seek parent consent to release information in order to enable collaboration.
Healthy Young Minds can help
Healthy Young Minds specializes in the assessment and treatment of developmental delays, and offers a full range of therapies focused on early intervention. Studies show that early interventions translate to better outcomes – targeting deficits while a child’s brain has more plasticity and is easier to “rewire.” Using teletherapy that is deeply engaging, we offer evidence-based and results-driven care, personalized to meet your child’s specific needs. As does the EI program, Healthy Young Minds facilitates the involvement of the family every step of the way, including the evaluation, goal selection, progress determination and school transition planning.