Early intervention services: Who pays for what

By Annie Stuart

Expert reviewed by Bob Cunningham, EdM

At a glance

  • Certain early intervention services are free in all states.

  • You may be charged on a sliding scale or through insurance for early intervention services that aren’t free.

  • You can’t be denied services if you can’t afford to pay for them.

These days, it may seem as though not much is free. But you and your infant or toddler can receive free services if your child is eligible.

Not all services are free, however; it depends on which state you live in. Still, your child can’t be denied services if you can’t afford to pay for them. Read on to get a better sense of when early intervention services are free and when you may need to pay for them.

Free early intervention services

The (IDEA) requires that families receive these services at no cost:

  • Coordinated activities to locate children (Child Find) who may need early intervention services
  • A simple evaluation to see whether a full evaluation is needed
  • Comprehensive developmental testing to see whether a child needs early intervention services
  • Ongoing assessments to see if services need to continue
  • A family assessment to check whether your family needs services
  • Development and review of the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), if your child is determined eligible for services
  • Service coordination to help you and your child through the early intervention program
  • Transition services to help your child move from one service to another or from early intervention to preschool

When early intervention services are not free

Your service coordinator can tell you which services are not free in your state. Your state must provide its policies to you in writing, so you know exactly what to expect.

Depending on your state, you may be asked to pay for certain specialized services such as:

  • Family training and support, counseling, and home visits
  • Nursing
  • Nutrition
  • Special instruction
  • Speech or hearing services
  • Occupational or
  • Medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes only
  • Health services to enable your child to benefit from other early intervention services
  • Vision services, including orientation and mobility training
  • devices and services
  • Transportation, respite care (short-term child care that gives a parent a break from the caregiver role), or environmental adaptations (such as the use of a quiet room)

Some of these services may be:

  • Charged on a sliding-fee scale. This means early intervention services charge you based on what you earn.
  • Covered by your health insurance, Medicaid, or Indian Health Services. Some insurers will cover early intervention services, and some will not. In most cases, you must give your written consent before anyone involved with early intervention can access your private or public health insurance for payment. If you don’t give your consent, however, you and your child still cannot be denied services.

Early intervention does not pay for health or medical care of the type that is routinely recommended for all children. In other words, it doesn’t pay for services like:

  • Immunizations
  • Well-baby care
  • Hospitalizations
  • Prescriptions
  • Devices to treat a medical condition

If you’re still not sure which early intervention services are free and which aren’t, don’t worry. That’s what your service coordinator is for. This person will walk you through what you need to know about paying for any early intervention services.

Key takeaways

  • If you’re not sure, ask your service coordinator which services are free, and which are not.

  • You must give your written consent before anyone involved with early intervention can access your private or public health insurance for payments.

  • Early intervention services won’t pay for routine health or medical care.

About the author

About the author

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Bob Cunningham, EdM has been part of the Understood team since its founding. He has also been the chief administrator for several independent schools and a school leader in both general and special education.


Explore related topics