Early intervention can be confusing to navigate. You may hear myths that make it hard to know what’s true and how best to help your child.
Knowing the facts can help you make informed decisions. Here’s the truth behind five common myths about early intervention.
Myth #1: Early intervention is only for kids with severe challenges.
Fact: Kids are eligible for early intervention services if they need them. It’s not based on the severity of the disability they have.
Kids under 3 are eligible for early intervention if they have a disability or developmental delay. This includes kids who haven’t reached certain developmental milestones, including communication or social-emotional milestones.
Myth #2: Early intervention is expensive.
Fact: The (IDEA) says that families whose kids are eligible should receive several services at no cost. Once your child has an early intervention evaluation and is found eligible, you’ll work with a service coordinator to get a plan in place.
Depending on your state, more specialized services may be available on a sliding fee scale. That means you may be asked to pay for some early intervention, but it’s based on how much you make.
Some services may be covered by health insurance or Medicaid. But that only happens if you give written consent for your insurance to be charged. However, if you can’t afford services or don’t provide permission to use your insurance, your child still can’t be denied services.
If your family doesn’t have insurance, visit this government website to learn about free or low-cost options.
Myth #3: Early intervention “cures” kids.
Fact: Intensive early intervention can help young children with developmental delays catch up. But it can’t “cure” lifelong conditions, like autism, ADHD, or Down syndrome. It can make a big difference, though, and it can have long-term positive effects.
That’s because between birth and 5 years of age, kids’ brains are developing quickly and making new connections. It’s a prime time to teach skills to young children and their families.
Myth #4: You spend tons of time in transit and in waiting rooms.
Fact: Families are key partners in early intervention. Professionals work with kids for a few hours (or more) per week. But you and your child’s other caregivers are the ones who practice with your child when the professionals aren’t around.
Plus, the law says that these services should take place in “natural environments” as much as possible. Natural environments are familiar places. They’re environments where your child, family, and care providers can participate in everyday activities. This might be your home or a nearby park. Or outside gardening, grocery shopping, or visiting friends.
All of this makes it easier for your child to practice new skills without leaving home. It also makes it easier for you to learn what you need to know to help and practice with your child. And as much as possible, service providers come to your child instead of you and your child going to the provider.
Learn more about where early intervention specialists will work with your child.
Myth #5: Kids who aren’t eligible have to wait until kindergarten.
Fact: If you disagree with the results of an evaluation, you can challenge the decision. You can request to meet with officials to talk about concerns. This is known as mediation. You can also request an impartial hearing, called a due process hearing.
If you agree that your child isn’t eligible and you still need help, ask the service coordinator to help you find services in your community.
Learn more about what to do if your child doesn’t qualify for early intervention.
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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.