Even with a background in Early Intervention (EI), I wonder and worry about my toddler’s skills. He talks a lot, but is he understandable? He’s fearful of other children, but does that mean he’s going to need extra support with social skills? Are his gross motor skills up to par?
While deep down I know my son doesn’t need EI services, if I didn’t know what they were for, I would be among the many parents who wonder whether EI services are right for their child. To help answer that and other common questions about Early Intervention that pop up on Circle of Moms, here's a primer on what they're for, who's eligible, how they're structured, and why they're so important.
1. What are Early Intervention Services?
Early Intervention Services are a system of services for children from birth to age three who have disabilities or developmental delays. The services are provided for and funded under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, though every state has the freedom to choose how the services are administered.
Under a provision of the law known as Child Find, states are required to locate and identify as many young children with disabilities as they can. As Circle of Moms member Lindsey T. explains, “They will do an evaluation and let you know how much of a delay [your child] has, and if they think she needs their help.”
2. What makes a child eligible?
In some cases, a child is eligible for services because she was born with a disability that qualifies her for services; in others she was born prematurely enough that she is “shortlisted” for evaluation. For instance, Circle of Moms member Kristi C.’s son "qualified for services based on the fact that he was born under three pounds.”
If your child doesn’t have an identified delay, but isn’t meeting typical milestones, it’s time to talk to your pediatrician about setting up an evaluation.
Another member, Barbara M., reminds parents to think about more than just physical milestones. She recommends early intervention to moms with "any concerns in regard to their child's development — gross [motor], fine motor, weight concerns, social interactions, speech [or] behavioral concerns.”
3. What's an Individualized Family Service Plan?
Early Intervention services are unique in that they work with the whole family to create a program that helps improve a child’s skills in five basic areas:
- Intellectual development
- Physical development
- Social and emotional development
- Adaptive development
Not all children need assistance in all areas, which is why an Individualized Family Service Plan will be developed to outline your child and family’s specific needs.
Early Intervention Services provide families with the skills to work with their own children. In fact, mom Michelle B. says, “the most important effect of EI is actually what you learn.”
Working with a therapist once or a few times a week only goes so far. As another mom, Sofia L., points out, learning activities to work on at home with your child is the real benefit of EI Services.
4. Why is Early Intervention so important?
Intervening early is important for a number of reasons. Chris M.'s child has developmental delays and is working with a Special Education teacher. She points out that “[EI] is a wonderful way to address issues early, and possibly take care of them before school expectations pile up."
Not only does intervening during the toddler and preschool years provide professional assistance before school starts, but also during a time when the potential to learn skills and adaptations is high.
As many moms attest, it also helps families find the skills and resources to adapt to a child’s disability. Having that assistance early on can reduce the stress on both parents and siblings of children with disabilities.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.