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Early Intervention: a window of opportunity to help your child thrive

October 18, 2013

What is Early Intervention?

Early Intervention is a federal program that originated in the 1975 Education of All Handicapped Children Act. It is currently Part H of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the law that helps states provide services to babies and toddlers under the age of 36 months who have been diagnosed with a disability, who are not learning and growing at the same rate as other children their age, or who are at risk of having developmental delays in their learning and growing.

What is the goal of Early Intervention?

All infants and toddlers grow and develop uniquely. However, some children may show significant delays in attaining their developmental milestones at a young age. The goal of early intervention is to prevent future difficulties and promote the necessary conditions for healthy development.  Early Intervention programs minimize and in some cases prevent delays in development of infants and toddlers with disabilities. They can decrease the need for special education and related services when a child enters school, and increase the child’s independence.

Why is it important to “Intervene Early?”

Research has shown that the time between birth and 36 months of age is a critical developmental period in a child’s life. These months offer a window of opportunity for learning that will not be available later. Children whose special needs are identified and addressed during these crucial early years have a better chance of reaching their full potential.

How do I know if my child will benefit from Early Intervention?

  • Does your child have special health or learning needs?
  • Was your child born with a very low birth weight?
  • Do you think your child is slow to begin sitting up, crawling, walking or talking?
  • Does your child have vision, hearing or feeding problems?
  • Does your child have trouble relating to other people?
  • Does your child have a condition that may cause him/her to have a future delay in development?

What services are included in Early Intervention?

Early Intervention Service programs and funding are different in each state. Typically, Early Intervention programs are designed to address five areas of development with specific services customized to meet each child’s particular needs. These programs take a family-centered approach, and are usually provided in the child’s “natural environment” (home or child care center).
  • Cognitive development: how a child thinks/learns. An Early Intervention specialist/teacher may provide home-based learning enrichment or preschool classroom services may be recommended to address these needs.
  • Physical development: includes fine and gross motor developmental milestones, vision and hearing. Occupational and/or physical therapy may be warranted to address these needs. Children may also be followed by services for children with low vision, or for the deaf/hard-of-hearing.
  • Language, speech and communication: these skills may be further evaluated and treated by a speech-language pathologist
  • Social-emotional development: these skills may warrant the need for evaluation and treatment by a behavioral therapist, counselor or developmental psychologist
  • Adaptive/self-help skills and development: these skills may be further evaluated and treated by an occupational therapist.

How can I learn more about Early Intervention in my area?