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Early childhood intervention, also called early intervention or EI, is a system of services funded by the federal government. EI services are explained in Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA). In the United States, these services are available for free, or are nearly free, in every state and territory.
EI services help promote the development of children younger than 36 months. You may hear your health care team mention “developmental delays” or “risk of developmental delay.” A developmental delay means your child does not learn or do the things most children do at the same age. This is also called “meeting developmental milestones.” If your child is not meeting developmental milestones, they might qualify for EI.
Find more information on developmental milestones.
Some diagnoses and medical treatments increase the chances of a child having a developmental delay. In most states, some diagnoses and conditions automatically qualify a child for EI services even if the child is not having a delay at that point in time. They offer this because EI services may help prevent future developmental delays.
Developmental delay: Your child is not learning or doing what most children do at the same age.vYour care team might call this “meeting developmental milestones.”
Eligibility: Rules that states use to learn if your child qualifies for EI services. These are based on information collected from your child’s evaluation.
Evaluation: A process to learn if your child qualifies for EI services. Going through this process involves asking you questions and interacting with your child.
IFSP: Stands for individualized family service plan. A document that is created if your child qualifies for EI services.
An EI evaluation will help determine if your child qualifies for early intervention. This checks your child’s skills in the following areas:
In some states, your child must have a certain amount of delay in certain skills. Other states give services to children with known risks for developmental delay, such as being premature (born early) or undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, leukemia, or retinoblastoma.
Your child might receive:
If you are concerned that your child is not meeting developmental milestones, here are some things you can do.
Be ready to answer some questions over the phone. You will probably need to give information on your name, address, child’s name, and more. Also, you will probably need to give details about your child’s health. Explain that you are concerned about early development and that you would like to have your child evaluated under Part C of IDEA. Once you or your child’s health care provider does this, the early intervention office has 45 days to evaluate your child.
If your child qualifies for EI services, local EI staff members will recommend what services might be needed and coordinate your child’s visits. They also will work with you to create an individualized family service plan to guide the help your child receives.
If you have questions about early intervention services, ask a member of your health care team.
Reviewed: August 2022