Parents, doctors, or childcare providers can call Early Intervention to ask for an evaluation. Children are most likely to receive services before they turn three when the connections in their brains are more adaptable. Once a child is evaluated, they will be assigned a service coordinator. This person will help them through the process of creating an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). The lead agency varies by state.Early Intervention

Montgomery County Early Intervention is a system of services that helps young children with delays or disabilities. It also helps families learn to support their child’s development and overcome obstacles that might get in the way. It is available to all children under 3 and their families, regardless of whether or not they have health insurance, and it is free. The federal government oversees the program and operates at the state level under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Parents often contact their local early intervention programs when they have noticed a problem or are concerned about their child’s progress. The program can then connect them with an early intervention specialist who will conduct a more thorough evaluation and develop an individual service plan to address the issue. The specialist can help them connect with outside resources, as well.

Sometimes it is known from birth that a child will need early intervention services. This is especially true of infants who experience significant prematurity, low birth weight, or illness soon after they are born. It is also possible for a child to be identified as being at risk of a developmental delay due to things like a genetic condition or exposure to drugs or alcohol in utero.

Families who choose to participate in early intervention may receive services for different lengths of time. It all depends on what is needed for the child to catch up with their peers. The earlier children are supported to overcome their challenges, the more likely they are to achieve a positive outcome.

The goals of early intervention are to improve the family’s ability to provide the best possible environment for their child to develop, and to make sure that their child has access to all the educational opportunities available in their community. It is important to note that the services provided by early intervention are designed to be delivered in the natural environment, so that a child can progress as they would in their own home or play group. Parents can also choose to have their child’s services delivered in a facility or school-based setting, but this decision should be made with the input of the team and the needs of the child in mind.

Who is eligible for Early Intervention?

Children between birth and three years who have an identified developmental delay may be eligible for Early Intervention services. This means that your child is behind in one or more areas of development compared to other children his or her age, such as taking first steps, smiling and waving, social or emotional skills, or self-help skills.

Each state chooses how to determine eligibility and who provides the evaluations. You can ask your doctor or health care provider about getting a referral to Early Intervention or contact the lead agency for your county (List of County EIP offices) to request an evaluation.

The evaluation process takes time to complete. Your service coordinator will help you throughout the entire process, including setting up your child for an evaluation and developing your individualized family service plan (IFSP). You have rights regarding your child’s evaluation, services and IFSP, which are detailed in the Family Rights section of this website.

Eligible children can receive services free of charge through the Early Intervention Program or EIP. EIP is funded by federal grants and county governments, and may use your child’s health insurance for reimbursement.

Each child is more than the condition that qualifies him or her for Early Intervention, and each child deserves a personalized plan based on what is most important to your family. Your service coordinator will explain your rights and help you carry them out.

Some children are automatically eligible for Early Intervention services because of a diagnosed physical or mental condition that has a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay. This includes but is not limited to: chromosomal abnormalities; genetic or congenital disorders; sensory impairments; inborn errors of metabolism; severe attachment disorders; and disorders secondary to exposure to toxic substances, such as fetal alcohol syndrome.

Some parents worry that children who participate in Early Intervention will be “labeled” when they enter elementary school, but your child’s participation in the EIP does not affect his or her eligibility for special education services at that time. However, you should discuss this with your child’s school district if you are concerned about how your child’s transition from the EIP to special education will occur.

How does Early Intervention work?

The purpose of Early Intervention is to identify and provide children with special needs a supportive environment that fosters a whole set of personal strengths and developmental skills that prepare them for adulthood. Effective EI works to prevent problems from occurring or to tackle them head-on when they do and before they get worse. It also helps families develop strategies that will keep their child from falling behind in development, or from ever reaching a developmental plateau, by identifying and supporting the natural learning opportunities that occur throughout a child’s life.

Each child’s early intervention experience is unique, reflecting the way that each individual learns and responds to the world around him or her. During early intervention, families and professionals work together to determine what areas of development need the most attention based on assessments of the child. These areas of focus are recorded in a written document called an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP).

In addition, there is often a need to address the underlying factors that may be contributing to a child’s delay or disability. This is known as the family-directed approach and it involves working closely with the family to address family patterns of interaction that may not support positive child development.

As services move up the developmental scale from universal to targeted selective and then to targeted indicated, they become more intensive and are offered to a smaller group of families. This is because the earlier a delay is identified, the more opportunity there is to intervene and make changes in a child’s future trajectory.

Early intervention is provided for free to families by federal and state funding and through private insurance. Each state has a set of laws that govern how early intervention is provided, so the process can vary somewhat from one to another. For more information about how the program works in your area, contact your county mental health/intellectual disabilities program or Department of Education and ask to be referred to your local early intervention program. This Practice Portal page summarizes the overall early intervention process, but please refer to your state’s regulations for additional guidance.

What are the goals of Early Intervention?

Ultimately, the goal of Early Intervention is to help children develop and learn the skills they need to live in their community, and participate fully with their family. This is accomplished through providing high quality services that are family centered, culturally responsive, and grounded in developmental science.

Early Intervention focuses on helping children who have developmental delays or disabilities by building upon the everyday activities that families do together every day to meet their child’s needs and encourage their growth. This includes playing, bathing, eating, dressing and learning to use communication strategies. Children who have disabilities or developmental delays are often at a greater risk for negative outcomes. Effective early intervention helps prevent problems from developing, or minimizes their negative effects.

Research shows that providing early intervention supports and services improves a child’s ability to learn, reduces the need for more specialized support later in life, and leads to better opportunities to participate in daily living activities. It also helps children build a full set of personal strengths that prepare them for life.

Children benefit most when they can learn and grow in natural environments, such as their homes and communities, and the places where they go to school and play. Inclusion of all children with disabilities and developmental delays is most successful when the approach to service delivery is family centered, grounded in developmental science, and reflects the unique needs and strengths of each individual child and family.

In addition, children and their families need the support and guidance of knowledgeable professionals who are familiar with the complexities of disabilities and development, as well as the current practices and services available to them. This is why it is important to have a “team approach” that involves parents and other family members, teachers and therapists, and a service coordinator who will work with your family to understand your child’s progress and goals and develop a plan of action.

When you are ready to start your child’s journey through Early Intervention, the first step is to talk to your child’s health care provider or call your local program office and ask for a referral. A service coordinator will then evaluate your child’s skills to determine if they are eligible for services. If they are, an Early Intervention team will be assigned to your child and you will begin working together to help them learn and grow.