All children grow and develop at different rates, but when a child has a genetic condition, parents have additional worries about developmental delays. Early intervention programs are available to identify and treat very young children in an effort to minimize the long-term impact on the child of any developmental delay. Research has shown that the time between birth and age 36 months is a critical developmental period in a child’s life. These months offer a window of opportunity that will not be available later.
Early intervention programs minimize and in some cases prevent delays in the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities. They can decrease the need for special education and related services when a child enters school which increases their independence. Children whose special needs are identified and addressed during these crucial early years have a greater chance of reaching their full potential.
Early Intervention is a system of services that helps infants and toddlers with their development starting from birth to 5 years old.
Types of services offered for children include help on skills that they would normally learn and develop on their own such as:
- Physical Skills: (reaching, rolling, crawling, and walking
- Cognitive skills: (thinking, learning, and solving problems)
- Communication skills: (talking, listening, and understanding)
- Social and emotional skills: (playing, feeling secure, and happy)
- Self-help: (eating and dressing).
*Most services are provided free of charge to the family (except for a few exceptions).
- If a child is not developing at the same pace as other children their age then it is important to voice this worry to the child’s doctor or ask the doctor if they are aware of any early intervention programs within the community that will offer to test and evaluate your child (for free) to figure out what kind of help the child will benefit most from.
Another way to get in touch with an early intervention program is by visiting The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (linked to: http://ectacenter.org/contact/ptccoord.asp) and once the parent is in touch with the program, they should talk in detail about their concerns for the child’s development.
- Parents are encouraged to write down information that the program’s contact person gives them about early intervention. Different names and numbers from parents should be written down for future needs, to help their child grow and develop.
- For every screening or testing/evaluation process, the parent(s) have to provide written consent! So a signature will usually be asked for before any services and programs can take any more steps forward.
- An early intervention program will begin with determining if the child is qualified for the services. This is why programs screen and evaluate children before sending families to the specific professional services the child needs.
- All early intervention programs and services are free for families because the government pays for them.
- Early intervention programs also evaluate the family, family resources, concerns, and priorities for the child. This is done in order for the child to gain and grow to the best of their abilities and for the program to have all the information needed to provide the best service.
- Once the family is all set up with the program and knows what services will be helping their child grow at a healthy pace, the whole team of professionals will sit with the parents to write out an individualized plan of action or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).