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Early Intervention Programs

Who is eligible for Early Intervention services?

Under the IDEA, “infants and toddlers with disabilities“ are defined as children from birth through age two who need early intervention services235 because they are experiencing developmental delays, as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures, in one or more of the following areas:

  • cognitive development.
  • physical development, including vision and hearing.
  • communication development.
  • social or emotional development.
  • adaptive development; or
  • ...have a diagnosed physical or mental condition that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay.

The term may also include, if a state chooses, children from birth through age two who are at risk of having substantial developmental delays if early intervention services are not provided.” (34 Code of Federal Regulations §303.16)

What’s included in early intervention services?

Circle-timeUnder IDEA, early intervention services must include a multidisciplinary evaluation and assessment, a written Individualized Family Service Plan, service coordination, and specific services designed to meet the unique developmental needs of the child and family. Early intervention services may be simple or complex depending on the child’s needs. They can range from prescribing glasses for a two-year-old to developing a comprehensive approach with a variety of services and special instruction for a child, including home visits, counseling, and training for his or her family. Depending on your child’s needs, his or her early intervention services may include:

  • family training, counseling, and home visits;
  • special instruction;
  • speech-language pathology services (sometimes referred to as speech therapy);
  • audiology services (hearing impairment services);
  • occupational therapy;
  • physical therapy;
  • psychological services; medical services (only for diagnostic or evaluation purposes);
  • health services needed to enable your child to benefit from the other services;
  • social work services;
  • assistive technology devices and services;
  • transportation;
  • nutrition services; and
  • service coordination services.

Will I have to pay for services?

Whether or not you, as parents, will have to pay for any services for your child depends on the policies of your state. Under IDEA, the following services must be provided at no cost to families: Child Find services; evaluations and assessments; the development and review of the Individualized Family Service Plan; and service coordination.

Depending on your state’s policies, you may have to pay for certain other services. You may be charged a “sliding-scale” fee, meaning the fees are based on what you earn. Check with the contact person in your area or state. Some services may be covered by your health insurance, by Medicaid, or by Indian Health Services. Every effort is made to provide services to all infants and toddlers who need help, regardless of family income. Services cannot be denied to a child just because his or her family is not able to pay for them.

Where do I go for help?

There are a number of ways you can find help for your child:

  1. Visit the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY)’s Web site at You can also call NICHCY at 1.800.695.0285 and ask one of their information specialists to give you the number for early intervention services in your state.
  2. Ask your child’s pediatrician to put you in touch with the early intervention system in your community or region;
  3. Contact the Pediatrics branch in a local hospital and ask where you should call to find out about early intervention services in your area.

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