What Is Early Intervention?Early intervention is a group of federally funded programs carried out by the states. Basically, early intervention helps families and young children who have a developmental concern (or who are at risk of problems) to make sure that these children grow to their greatest potential. Early intervention services are offered from birth to age 3. Children who need services past age 3 are transitioned into a preschool setting that best meets their needs.
Why Do Premature Babies Need Early Intervention?Not all children who were born early will need early intervention, but premature babies are at risk for many conditions that make them eligible for early intervention. Conditions such as IVH and other health problems of prematurity may leave premature babies with developmental delays, cognitive or emotional disorders, speech or feeding problems, social concerns, or other issues.
What Services Are Offered?Because states design different early intervention programs, services offered may vary. Typically, early intervention services include:
- Educational services
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Family counseling
Early intervention is provided in many different settings, and always in the best place for the child. Early intervention might be provided in the child’s home, in a daycare setting, or in a local clinic.
How Do I Sign My Child Up for Early Intervention Services?Early intervention should start as early as possible. Many milestones are best met at a certain age, so waiting could mean that children who miss these developmental windows will have trouble learning certain skills.
If your child seems to be showing signs of a developmental delay or having trouble in other areas, talk with your pediatrician. He or she may be able to direct you to the best place to go to get services. If your pediatrician can’t help, contact the early intervention coordinators in your state.
Deciding What Services to UseThe first step in early intervention is a complete assessment of the child. Parents are closely involved, and their opinions are very important. After the assessment, the family and case workers will write an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) for the child. This plan lists all of the information about the child’s early intervention program, including areas of need, goals of service, specific services to be provided, timeline for the program, and how the child should transition out of the program or to the next type of care.
Does Early Intervention Work?Early intervention has been very helpful to premature babies. Short term research shows that about 3/4 of parents of preemies feel like early intervention has been helpful to their families. Long term research is still being done, but early studies show that children who have had early intervention do better in school, are held back less often in school, and have higher IQs.
Blann, Lauren E. MSN, RN, CRN. “Early Intervention for Children and Families With Special Needs.” The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing July/August 2005; 30, pp 263-267.
Early Intervention Support. Accessed on September 16, 2009 from http://www.earlyinterventionsupport.com/
KidSource Online. “What Is Early Intervention?” Accessed on July 28, 2009 from http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content/early.intervention.html