Early Intervention – What Does it Mean and Who Can it Help?
I have been working in Early Intervention for the past 10 years but I'm still surprised how many families have never heard that there is assistance for families whose children are experiencing developmental delays before they reach preschool. For those who may not know early Intervention is a part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA). Part C of IDEA
requires that each
state has a comprehensive and multidisciplinary system in place to help families with infants and toddlers who may be experiencing, or at risk for experiencing, developmental delays in one or more of their skill areas (gross motor, fine motor, speech/language, cognitive, self-help/adaptive and social/emotional.) The Wrightslaw website
has a wonderful explanation of what "Early Intervention" is and how Part C of IDEA has been set up to help infants and toddlers who are/may be at risk.
Numerous studies and research has shown that early intervention is important for several reasons:
- From birth to three years of age the brain is more "flexible" and the neural pathways/circuits in the brain can strengthened by working on different strategies to help develop the skill areas that are showing delays. In some cases it is believed that the brain can even "rewire" its neural pathways with the help of early intervention.
- Learning you have a child with developmental delays can be overwhelming at first. Families who may be struggling with not knowing what to do or who to turn to can receive guidance and support from early intervention services.
- Having a child with special needs often means learning different strategies to help your child meet their developmental milestones. Early intervention services include occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, teachers, early intervention assistants/associates, Autism specialists, and nutritionists - all who will come to the family in their home environment and help them to better understand their child's needs and teach them the strategies needed for their child to learn to the best of their ability.
So how can you find the Early Intervention provider in your state? The Raising a Sensory Smart Child website has a wonderful list of who to contact in each state. The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities also has a page that where you can find other state organizations that will help families who have children with delays and/or disabilities.
If you know of a good resource I would love to hear about it.