What is Early Intervention?
You’ve spent months preparing for your baby’s delivery and navigated the forever changing ups and downs of pregnancy and labor. Now baby is here. They are growing more each day, and you find yourself continuously questioning their development. Often comparing them to other similarly aged children and asking questions like “Should my baby be walking by now?” or “Should they be talking more?”. These questions don’t have a hard answer because every child will develop different skills on their own time and with practice. But this does not mean you have to navigate it alone. Early Intervention is an available program designed to help support families and their child’s development.
What is Early Intervention?
Early Intervention is a publicly funded program meant to service children and their families from birth-3 years, who present with developmental delays or disabilities or are at risk for developmental delays due to a medical diagnosis or socioeconomic factors, for example. Early Intervention is free or low cost depending on the state you live in, and offers a wide range of services. These services are based on your child and family’s needs and can include services from a speech language pathologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, developmental specialist, nurse, social worker, etc. Although Early Intervention is offered in every US state, services will differ slightly depending on where you live. If you feel you could benefit from Early Intervention services, check out your states specific EI program information with a quick google search.
How do I get Early Intervention Services?
You may be interested in Early Intervention services for a number of reasons. Maybe a family member made a comment, or a daycare teacher expressed some concerns. It could be that although you are not worried, you would like some reassurance that their development is on track. In order to receive continuous support from Early Intervention, you must qualify for their services. You can self-refer by calling the program directly, or request that your doctor put in the referral for you. You DO NOT need a referral from a doctor to be evaluated by your state’s Early Intervention program.
How do I qualify for Early Intervention Services?
Depending on the state you live in, your child will be evaluated using their version of a developmental assessment tool. Based on the assessment and a family intake meeting, your child will either be eligible or not eligible for EI services. Eligibility requirements and duration of services will also vary by state and may look different for each family. If you are eligible and accept services, you will then create an EI plan that is individually created to meet your family and child’s specific needs. Services are always optional and you never need to feel obligated to accept them. Early Intervention does not work for everyone. It is important the family is open and committed to services in order to make the difference.
When should I reach out to an Early Intervention program?
Early Intervention is available for families who qualify with a child age birth- 3 years old. This age range is specific because it captures them at that optimal age where their brains are continuously developing and shaping. Your infant or toddler is learning through play and social interactions and the earlier we can support these experiences, the most potential there is for success. There is no wrong time to refer to an Early Intervention program or to get help for your child. If your child is 3 years or older and you are concerned with their development, contact your Local Education Agency (LEA) for information and services!
How should I go about finding out about Early Intervention services local to me?
The CDC lists out resources by state here. As well, Autism Speaks lists out similar contact information here, but if Autism is your specific concern may be a good resource to start from.
Post written by Caitlin LeBeau, TBH Team Member, Developmental Specialist, & Doula