Early intervention services are available for children with developmental delays or specific health conditions. These services are coordinated by professionals to promote a child’s growth and development, to help maximize their opportunities for success in the long term. If you’re concerned about your child and whether or not they are meeting developmental milestones, or your medical team has recommended these services, it’s important to understand what early intervention services are and what they could mean for your family.
1. Early intervention services are available to children in every state. However, every state approaches things differently. Here in the U.S., some services are federally mandated through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) while others are provided through national, regional, and state programs.
2. Children with developmental delays or a specific health condition that could lead to a delay are eligible for these services. These services are designed to help infants and young toddlers, from birth to age 3, meet developmental milestones. If your child is already older than 3, it’s not too late! There are special education services available for children under IDEA.
3. According to an article from the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, only 9% of children with delays at 9 months of age receive early intervention services, and only 12% of children with delays at 24 months receive services.
4. It’s important to note that each state defines developmental delays differently and approaches what they offer differently. It’s critical that you explore and understand the rules, processes, and vocabulary of your home state.
5. Some early intervention services are free in all states, while others are covered through insurance or charged on a sliding scale based on income. When services are not free, your state must provide its policies to you so you know what to expect. You cannot be denied early intervention services if you can’t afford to pay for them. That being said, early intervention services do not cover health or medical care typically recommended for all children (immunizations, well-baby care, prescriptions, etc.).
6. Positive early experiences strengthen the brain, while early social and emotional development provides the foundation for future cognitive and language skills to develop.
7. Children enrolled in early intervention programs by 6 months of age did better on measures of language (signed or spoken) and social-emotional development than later-identified peers regardless of their gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, communication modality, hearing levels, and/or presence of multiple disabilities.
8. Early intervention services are often categorized within these areas:
Focused on moving, reaching, crawling, standing, walking, drawing, building
Focused on reasoning, thinking, learning, problem-solving, decision-making
Focused on eating, dressing, following instructions, playing, sensory processing
9. These services often initiate a long-term relationship between parents and professionals, which can greatly benefit the child, family, and community in the long term. Specialists that offer support could include:
10. Intervention services are likely to be more productive and less expensive when they are provided early in life.
Your child’s early development is the foundation for their future cognitive and language skills. Finding the right services and support for your children starts early and, as a parent, you’ll continue advocating for your child for years to come. The earlier you start looking into the evaluations and services available to your family, the more opportunities you’ll be giving your child.