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How Early Intervention Services Benefit Students With Disabilities

Even the youngest children can be diagnosed with physical or mental conditions that may result in developmental delays and a negative impact on their education. Early intervention services are designed to identify and meet children's needs early in life, mitigating the effects of disabilities on their social, emotional, physical and academic success.

Early Evaluation and Intervention Is Key

Children's brains are most adaptable at a young age, and early intervention programs hold the potential to change their developmental paths. While Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act guarantees eligible preschoolers (aged 3 to 5) access to special education services through public schools, early intervention services are generally sought between birth and 3 years of age.

Early intervention services often also focus on providing valuable resources for a student's family members, helping them manage difficult behaviors, reinforce learned skills and advocate for their child's well-being. Studies also show that early intervention contributes to positive changes in a student's health, language and communication, cognitive development and social-emotional development, affecting them throughout their education and into adulthood.

Healthcare or childcare providers can recommend early intervention services, or parents may seek evaluations on their own. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer a comprehensive list of early childhood technical assistance centers that can provide information and evaluations for early intervention services.

Advantages to Early Intervention

Children receive services depending on their specific needs, and support can be temporary or longstanding. Some children participate for only a short time to address temporary developmental delays, while others require continued or more intense special education services once they enter school. Many parents, concerned that their students will be labelled in school, find that early intervention services help their children develop the necessary skills to keep up with their peers without needing further special needs programs or support.

In addition, school districts may benefit financially from early intervention. The Child Find portion of IDEA mandates that school districts identify and evaluate all children with potential disabilities. It subsequently offers state grants to pay for services for children aged 3 and younger, minimizing the cost to the district when students enter kindergarten.

How Early Intervention Works

For children deemed eligible to receive early intervention services, a team is formed to develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) to define goals and determine types of services. The IFSP might include one or a combination of the following services for a student:

  • Speech and language therapy
  • Physical or occupational therapy
  • Psychological services
  • Medical and nutrition services
  • Hearing or vision services
  • Social work services
  • Transportation assistance
  • Home visits

The range of services offered varies based on the individual child's needs, and each IFSP team works with service providers and parents to regularly evaluate and update the course of action.

Early intervention can provide even the very youngest with a tailor-made plan, designed to build a solid foundation of special education programs, teach families how to best support their students and ultimately help them succeed academically and professionally.

Learn more about the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) Master of Education, Curriculum & Instruction – Concentration in Special Education in Early Intervention online program.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Why Act Early if You're Concerned About Development?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: What is "Early Intervention?"

Society for Research in Child Development: Effects of Early Intervention on Intellectual and Academic Achievement: A Follow-up Study of Children from Low-Income Families

Understood: IFSP: What It Is and How It Works

Wrightslaw: Early Intervention (Part C of IDEA)

Wrightslaw: The Child Find Mandate: What Does It Mean to You?

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