Early intervention services are specially designed to address the educational and developmental needs of very young children with disabilities and those who are experiencing developmental delays.
Early intervention provides free developmental evaluations of children younger than 3 (that is to say, before their third birthday) and helps families find services for their little one. These services are available through the same law that makes special education services available—the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Finding Early Intervention in Your Area
If you think your baby or toddler needs special help, you should get in touch with the early intervention system in your area. Here are suggestions for how to do that.
Get in touch with the State system.
The State is responsible for implementing early intervention programs for infants and toddlers. This plays out at the local level, under State supervision. Look at NICHCY’s State Organizations for your state to identify where to call, write, or email (http://nichcy.org/state-organization-search-by-state). Use the drop-down menu to select “state agencies”, then click the box for your state. Submit your search. State agencies for your state will automatically display. Look under the heading “Early Intervention.” The agency listed there is the state contact, the agency responsible for overseeing early intervention in your state. This is called the lead agency for early intervention.
Ask to be referred to your local area.
Call the state agency you identified above. Explain that you want to find out about early intervention services for your child. Ask for the name of the office, a contact person, and the phone number in your area where you can find out more about the program and have your child screened for a disability or delay.
Visit the State’s and/or local agency’s website.
Most states make websites available where you can find guidance for parents new to the early intervention system, as well as descriptions of policies. Your NICHCY State Resource page will likely list the website address for the State agency in charge of the EI system. The same types of information may also be available on the website of the local-level program, so be sure to ask at the local level if they have a website you can visit.
Keep track of info.
Write down the names, phone numbers, and emails you’re given (and, as you continue, everyone you talk to). You can use the Parent’s Record-Keeping Worksheet. Having this information available will be helpful to you later on.