What is early intervention?

By Amanda Morin

At a glance

  • Early intervention helps young kids work toward meeting developmental milestones.

  • Infants and toddlers may qualify for help if they have developmental delays or specific health conditions.

  • To find out if kids are eligible, they have to be evaluated.

Early intervention refers to services and supports that can help young children with developmental delays. It’s like but it’s for eligible infants and toddlers who are behind at reaching developmental milestones. 

Through early intervention, kids from birth to age 3 can get services at home or in the community. Different types of specialists work with kids and their families depending on which skills are delayed. Early intervention focuses on skills in these areas:

  • Physical skills (reaching, crawling, walking, drawing, building)
  • Cognitive skills (thinking, learning, solving problems)
  • Communication skills (talking, listening, understanding others)
  • Self-help or adaptive skills (eating, dressing)
  • Social or emotional skills (playing, interacting with others)

Although all states offer early intervention, not all states do it the same way. A health care provider or a childcare provider might refer kids for an early intervention evaluation. Some states allow families to make their own referrals if they’re concerned. 

If kids are found eligible, a team from the state’s early intervention program works with the family to develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). This plan defines goals and the types of services to help children and their families. 

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    About the author

    About the author

    Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.