What is Early Intervention?
● By Digital Media Director
By: Sarah Carter, Director, Birth to Three Program
Learning begins at the time of birth, and it is important to make sure your child gets off to a good start. If you’re concerned about the development of your own infant or toddler or another little one, South Dakota provides an early intervention program for infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities and their families that can be a wonderful resource.
Early Intervention (EI) is a family-focused, in-home service for children from birth to 36 months of age. It provides a system of services and supports for families to help understand their child’s development. It also provides specific training to assist the family in addressing these areas of delay. Early Intervention is a voluntary partnership between the child’s parents, caregivers, childcare providers, professionals and others with focus on providing the adults in a child’s life with skills and resources to help the child develop. This family-centered process is customized to the family’s routines and everyday life so that intervention can happen all day, every day – not just when the professional is present.
Who is eligible for early intervention?
Eligibility is determined by evaluating the child with their parents’ consent. This developmental evaluation is completed by the local school district at no cost. For some children, it is known from the moment the child is born that early intervention will be important in helping that child and family. Often this is for babies who have a specific condition or experience significant prematurity. Others may experience a setback, develop more slowly or in ways that are different from other infants and toddlers.
What to expect if eligible for early intervention.
When a child is found eligible for early intervention, a semi-structured interview is conducted asking about the child and family during every day routines. This is a wonderful opportunity for the family to learn about early intervention and the critical role they will play in their child’s development and also to learn about the family’s priorities, goals and needs not only for their child, but for their family. Families along with an Early Intervention team, design an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) based on the family’s priorities and routines previously identified. The early interventionist professional(s) selected to work with the child and family is based on the IFSP family priorities. These professionals serve as a coach showing family members and caregivers strategies for working with your child and helping your child learn. The most common early interventionists are service coordinators, special instruction, occupational therapist, physical therapist and speech and language pathologist.
Some areas that focus on helping eligible babies and toddlers learn the skills that typically develop during the first three years, include:
· Physical (reaching, rolling, crawling, and walking)
· Cognitive (thinking, learning, solving problems)
· Communication (talking, listening, understanding)
· Social/emotional (playing, feeling secure and happy)
· Self-help (eating, dressing)
That is the key to success of Early Intervention? Active, engaged families.
Families, particularly parents, are vital participants in Early Intervention.
You are your child’s most important teacher and caregiver. You know your child better than anyone else. Share your child’s likes and dislikes with your early intervention team. Practice the strategies with your provider’s support and ask questions to ensure you are using the strategies correctly. Provide opportunities for your child to play and practice new skills during routines such as meal times, diaper changes and dressing. During home visits, take an active role and ask your early intervention professional questions about the activities.