Early Intervention – An Overview

What Is early intervention?

Early Intervention is a term used to refer to services given to young children with special needs from the ages of birth to three years.  Services could include speech therapy, occupational therapy, or physical therapy and can be provided either in an office or in the child’s home.  More specifically, early intervention services are designed to meet children’s needs in 5 different areas, including: physical development, cognitive development, communication, social or emotional development, or adaptive development. 

How do I know if my child needs early intervention services?

If you have concerns that your child is not developing as quickly as other children in the above-mentioned areas, ask your pediatrician to put you in touch with the early intervention program in your community.  First, your child will have to be evaluated to determine if he or she qualifies to receive early intervention services.  The evaluation will be free for you and might include a number of professionals, such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, vision or hearing consultants, developmental teachers or psychologists.

Why intervene early?

A child is most ready to learn skills between the ages of birth to three.  It is the most crucial stage in a child’s development.  Timing of intervention is important because a child runs the risk of missing an opportunity to learn at a state of maximum readiness.  If this stage of readiness is not taken advantage of, the child may have difficulty learning a certain skill at a later time.  The family of a child with a developmental delay also benefits greatly from early intervention services.  There are opportunities for them to receive education on their child’s development.  Parents spend the most time with their child, so it is important for them to receive education and support.  The hope is that if these services are provided early enough in a child’s life to address delays in development, then services won’t be needed later on.  Don’t hesitate!  If you have any concerns, get the early intervention process started!

Michelle Smith, M.S. CCC-SLP

Information was adapted from:

NationalInformationCenterfor Children and Youth with Disabilities website for a “Parent Guide for Early Intervention”  http://nichcy.org/wp-content/uploads/docs/pa2.pdf




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