Early Childhood Intervention Childhood Early Intervention Program – National Association of Special Education Teachers

What is Early Intervention?

If you're asking the question "what's effective in delivering early intervention services?" then you probably don't need an intro to what early intervention is. But we don't like to presume what anyone might already know (or not know) when they come to these Foundations pages. So we'll start with the basics. Skip this section if you already know them.

EI: What is it? How to find it.
Start with NICHCY's Finding Help for Young Children with Disabilities (Birth-5). Early intervention services are explained, as well as how to access them for infants and toddlers. This publication will also connect you with many of the major organizations who can tell you more.

What's the law have to say?
The legal basis for early intervention services comes from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The link above takes you to the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center's pages on the IDEA's early childhood provisions.

The lowdown on "service coordination."
"Early intervention service coordination is a mandated service under Part C of IDEA, provided at no cost to families. Service coordination is defined as an active, ongoing process that assists and enables families to access services and assures their rights and procedural safeguards." So begins the service coordination page at ECTA, where you'll find IDEA's definition of service coordination, how different states are addressing service coordination, training resources, and links.

The Long Term Economic Benefits Of High Quality Early Childhood Intervention Programs - Minibibliography answers one aspect of the benefits question. An extensive body of research indicates that high quality early intervention for at-risk infants, toddlers, and young children and their families is a sound economic investment. Courtesy of NECTAC (now renamed ECTA), 2005, 9 pages.

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Early Intervention in Your State

Is early intervention available in my state?
Oh yes, EI services are available in your state. Visit NICHCY's state resource sheets page, click on your state, and look for the heading "Programs for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities: Ages Birth through 2." You'll find the contact info for the early intervention system in your state. That's just the starting place. There's an incredible EI network in most states and a great deal of online information about early intervention services in general, a state's system in specific, training modules, and... be sure to visit your state's online EI resources, which will lead you into the heart of the system where you live.

How does my state define who's eligible for services?
Find the answer in State and Jurisdictional Eligibility Definitions for Infants and Toddlers With Disabilities Under IDEA.

And how does my state define "developmental delay" under Part B of IDEA?
Find the answer in Eligibility Policies and Practices for Young Children Under Part B of IDEA.

State definitions matter.
"Part C eligibility is determined by each state's definition of developmental delay and includes children with established physical or mental conditions with a high probability of resulting in developmental delay."

What is (and who's on) my state's ICC?
As required by the IDEA, each state has what's known as an Interagency Coordinating Council, or ICC. Its role in the state's early intervention system is suggested by its title---to address the coordination of the efforts of the various agencies involved in providing or supervising the provision of EI services. Find out about your state's ICC at the link above---its composition and membership, parent roles and participation, structure and organization, and roles and functions.

If you live in California (and even if you don't)...
WestEd’s Center for Prevention & Early Intervention (CPEI) provides training, technical assistance and resource development and provision supporting early intervention services for California infants and toddlers with disabilities and at-risk conditions and their families. For those of us who don't live in CA, there's still lots of info at CPEI, including the online Early Start Library, a specialized collection of more than 4,200 items you can check out—videotapes, training kits, latest research studies, and much more.

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Who's Who in Early Intervention

How long a list would you like? In the interests of efficiency, we're going to give you the short and to-the-point list to get you started (we apologize to all those organizations we haven't listed here). This starter list will definitely lead you into the wider network and keep you informed in the ongoing work in early intervention.

Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA).
ECTA supports the implementation of the early childhood provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Its mission is to strengthen service systems to ensure that children with disabilities (birth through five) and their families receive and benefit from high quality, culturally appropriate, and family-centered supports and services. The center addresses this mission by working primarily with the state agencies responsible for ensuring EI services.

CLAS, the Early Childhood Research Institute on Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services.
CLAS identifies, evaluates, and promotes effective and appropriate early intervention practices and preschool practices that are sensitive and respectful to children and families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. You won't believe how many materials they offer to guide early intervention practice---and in multiple languages as well. We mention quite a few of them in these Foundations pages, but you'll want to visit anyway and see how much more there is.

Research and Training Center (RTC) on Early Childhood Development.
The RTC on Early Childhood Development is conducting applied research on knowledge and practice that improves interventions associated with the healthy mental, behavioral, communication, preliteracy, social-emotional, and interpersonal development of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with or at risk for developmental disabilities. You'll find a wealth of information about effective early childhood intervention practices based on research on the Puckett Institute's website.

Early Childhood Research Institute on Measuring Growth and Development (ECRI-MGD).
The ECRI-MGD was launched in October 1996 with a mission to produce a comprehensive system for continuously measuring the skills and needs of individual children with disabilities from birth to eight years of age. This report highlights some of the general growth outcomes from birth to 8 years of age.

The ECTA Center Outcomes Team
"The Outcomes team of the ECTA Center provides national leadership in assisting states with the implementation of high-quality child and family outcomes measurement for early intervention (EI) and early childhood special education (ECSE) programs."

TRACE stands for Tracking, Referral and Assessment Center for Excellence. The major goal of TRACE is to identify and promote the use of evidence-based practices and models for improving child find, referral, early identification, and eligibility determination for infants, toddlers, and young children with developmental delays or disabilities who are eligible for early intervention or preschool special education.

Division for Early Childhood (DEC).
DEC is especially for individuals who work with or on behalf of children with special needs, birth through age eight, and their families. DEC promotes polices and advances evidence-based practices that support families and enhance the optimal development of young children who have or are at risk for developmental delays and disabilities. Visit DEC's publications page to connect with (for-sale but on-point) DEC's Recommended Practices series.

IDEA Infant and Toddler Coordinators Association.
This association promotes the mutual assistance, cooperation, and exchange of information and ideas in the administration of the IDEA Infant and Toddler Program. It also provides support to the state coordinators. Membership in the Association is open to the agency within each state or jurisdiction that has been designated as the Part C lead agency. Membership fees are established in relation to the Federal Part C allocation.

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Pediatrics and Health Care

It is difficult to discuss early intervention and early childhood development in the absence of discussing health care concerns. Health issues, health care, the role of the pediatrician in diagnosing developmental delays or disabilities, how to address health costs...the list goes on and on. All are topics worthy of stand-alone Foundations pages. Lacking that at this moment, we will list several "starter" resources below, with the clear recognition that there is much, much more to say. We will, in the future. For now...start with these resources, which will lead you to more.

Intro to "the medical home."
The brief described in the bullet above is also intended for early intervention programs. It will help programs learn about the role of the medical home in providing comprehensive, coordinated, collaborative care in concert with the family and other medical and non-medical service providers; The brief also provides strategies for effective collaboration and communication between the pediatric clinician and early intervention programs in the provision of quality, comprehensive care.

Every Child Deserves a Medical Home Training Curriculum

For Pediatricians: Your role in developing the IFSP.
From the American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Children with Disabilities.

For pediatricians: Your role in family-centered EI services.
Another article from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Children with Disabilities.

Developmental Disabilities.
Heard of the University Centers? That's a network of 61 university-based programs with the telling name of "University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service (UCEDD)." University Centers have four broad tasks: conduct interdisciplinary training, promote community service programs, provide technical assistance at all levels (from local service delivery to community and state governments), and conduct research and dissemination activities. The link above takes you to the main page of the network. If you click on "UCEDDs" on the left menu, you'll go to a description of the UCEDD network. At the top of the page, dead-center, is "Link to UCEDD Directory," which you can choose if you'd like to identify the university center in your state.

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Child Find Matters

Child Find operates in each state to identify children who have disabilities or who are at risk of developmental delay. This includes infants and toddlers who may be eligible for early intervention services. All on its own, Child Find is a gigantic undertaking. With this very young target population, Child Find must raise awareness across a range of caregivers as to the "warning signs" of disabilities or developmental delays in young children--and often in multiple languages, too.

If you're looking for ways to address the effectiveness of your area's Child Find system, here are some resources you may find helpful.

What is child find?
Enter the site through the link above to see the statute, links to articles, caselaw, and other resources.

How does child find work?
Click link above to learn about featured programs as well as the seven components of child find.

Implementation and Evaluation
From The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), a Power Point presentation on implementing and evaluating child find in your Local Education Agency (LEA).

Child development, developmental milestones---and an intro to developmental screening.
From the CDC, many links to resources that will help you and others identify children that may be in need of services.

Want to create a Community of Practice?
See what a CoP has to offer and how to implement one at the link above.

How do you promote public awareness and referrals to early intervention programs?

More on "How-To" increase referrals:

Primary Healthcare and EI services:
From California, this PDF describes "A statewide interagency system of coordinated early intervention services for infants and toddlers with or at risk of disabilities or developmental delay and their families."

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Assessment/Evaluation Practices

Once the Child Find system has gotten people's attention and "found" children with disabilities or at risk of disabilities, the children must be assessed to see if they are eligible for services and, if so, what types of services and intervention are needed.. This is obviously a huge area within early intervention. If you're looking for ways to address the effectiveness of your system's assessment processes, here are some resources you may find helpful.

Recommended screening tools, from First Signs.
First Signs, Inc. is a national non-profit organization dedicated to educating parents and pediatric professionals about the early warning signs of autism and other developmental disorders. Take advantage of their extensive review of current screening tools available and the recommendations they make about what to use.

Assessing with solutions in mind.
The Center for Early Education and Development (CEED) offers various programs that allow families and early childhood and early elementary educators to identify features of classroom and home settings they can change to improve children's developmental outcomes.

Don't overlook cultural or linguistic diversity during assessment.
The multitude of linguistic and cultural variations that exist in the United States presents a special challenge to early interventionists. This mini-bibliography (annotated) from NECTAC is designed to put you in touch with resources on how to effectively address diversity concerns during early identification of children.

Assessment that guides intervention.
Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDIs) are explained as a tool for measuring a child's progress toward selected outcomes and, using that info, determining and refining intervention.

Evaluation tools: "Special Collection."
CLAS offers an online collection of evaluation tools, which they describe as a "listing of a variety of screening and diagnostic tools, and books about recommended practices in assessing the development of young children with and without disabilities from culturally and linguistically diverse groups."

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Interagency Efforts

Many agencies are typically involved in providing EI and preschool services to children with disabilities. Head Start, child care, health services, education...who might you bring to the table, unite forces with, share expenses with, and plan with to increase state capacity to address the needs of young children? Here are some resources to help you consider and design a unified, collaborative approach to this shared responsibility.

Assembling a diverse ICC.
As required by IDEA, State ICCs must be composed of at least 20% parents of children with disabilities. Additionally, states often seek to recruit parent members from culturally diverse backgrounds to ensure that a variety of viewpoints are represented at the table. The document at the link above describes several ways ICCs can encourage and expand diverse parent representation on councils and committees. Although it specifically concerns parent members, this paper can also be useful for general recruitment of diverse members.

Promoting early care and education partnerships: What can a state do?
The Center for Children and Families has a lot to say on this topic, emerging from its Partnership Impact Research Project, an intensive six-year research investigation on the nature of partnerships among early education providers.

Getting from here (separate systems) to there (collaborative systems).
This paper explores strategies for moving from independent and overlapping services toward a seamless system of early child care and nurturance provided by the four diverse players in the early childhood field: child care, Head Start, services for children with disabilities, and preschool programs.

Want an example?
See what three states have done in their interagency agreements.

Promoting collaborative teams at the community level.
"Tasks, Tips and Tools for Promoting Collaborative Community Teams" is a product of the Collaborative Planning Project (CPP), based at The Center for Collaborative Educational Leadership in Denver, Colorado. The document is available online at NECTAC.

Financing early childhood systems.
This annotated bibliography presents resources related to financing early childhood systems to support inclusive options for young children with disabilities.

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IFSP stands for Individualized Family Service Plan, and it's the cornerstone of family involvement and early intervention services provided to infants and toddlers with disabilities. Find out the basics and more about the IFSP below.

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Involving Families Effectively

Families, most particularly parents, are vital participants in early intervention programming, both at an organizational level determining policies and scope and at the individual level where they are intimately involved in determining the EI services that their own child will receive. How might the EI system promote the active involvement of families at either the organizational and individual levels? Both types of involvement drive directly to the effectiveness of the system overall and for individual children.

Helping parents understand the assessment process.
ZERO TO THREE, the National Center For Infants, Toddlers and Families, offers "New Visions for Parents," a packet of materials that contains, among other things, (a) A Parent's Guide to Understanding Developmental Assessment; (b) Planning and Preparing for Your Child's Developmental Assessment; and (c) List of Terms: Terms Frequently Used in Developmental Assessment. Parents can read or download these materials online at the link above, and practitioners can download and share them with parents.

Family-centered assessment practices.
Above, under "Child Find," we mentioned a training curriculum available from the Multicultural Early Childhood Team Training (MECTT) project at the Helen A. Kellar Institute for Human disAbilities. Well, Module 6 of the training curriculum focuses on family-centered assessment. Assessment is defined; family-centered assessment practices are described; and cultural factors influencing assessment are identified. The role of the family throughout the assessment process is discussed.

Explaining rights and safeguards to families.
Assuring the Family's Role on the Early Intervention Team: Explaining Rights and Safeguards provides a thorough discussions of what rights and safeguards we're talking about and includes clear, easy-to-read materials that can be shared with parents.

Getting fathers involved.

National Parent Leadership Development Project for ICCs.
Being a parent representative on an ICC can be a confusing but exhilarating experience. The leadership support project at the link above is designed to support parents of children with disabilities serving on their state ICC, offer leadership institutes, a network of fellow parents, and the opportunity to orient, learn, grow, and succeed in the role.

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Transitioning to Preschool

Out of EI and into preschool: What's it all about?

Pull a thread and find a minibibliography.
Transitions From Infant Toddler Services to Preschool Education - Minibibliography is available online from NECTAC. This annotated bibliography presents resources related to transitions from infant-toddler services to preschool education.
2004, 8 pages.

Who's in charge of preschool services, and what are they doing?
Find out in the 2005 edition of this annual NECTAC publication, which contains information on state policies, programs, and practices under the Preschool Grants Program (Section 619 of Part B) of IDEA. Information supplied by the coordinators of state and jurisdictional Section 619 programs updates the following content areas: program administration, funding, and education reform; charter and private schools; interagency coordination; personnel; transition; programming; accreditation and monitoring; performance outcomes; public awareness; IEPs, IFSPs, and family-centered services; state preschool program data from www.ideadata.org; and contact information for state and jurisdictional program coordinators.

Have you visited the center that's looking only at what makes for effective transitions?
The National Early Childhood Transition Center (NECTC) is investigating and validating practices and strategies that enhance the early childhood transition process and support positive school outcomes for children with disabilities. Search NECTC's transition literature database, tell your transition story, and keep track of NECTC's emerging results and recommendations.

Wanna join the Preschool LRE Community of Practice?
The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has formed several communities of practice (CoP) to improve implementation of IDEA. One focuses upon the Preschool LRE-Part B/619 Community. See what this CoP has to offer, at the link above.


Here's a decent explanation, including why it's important to plan for this transition; the benefits to children, families, and professionals of such planning; and the chief differences between the EI system and preschool service system in terms of child find, referral, evaluation, eligibility, family involvement, the type of plan that's written and the services that are delivered, and service coordination.

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Materials in Spanish

"A Family Introduction to California's Early Start Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities and Their Families" in Spanish.


Starting Out Together - An Early Intervention Guide for Families" in Spanish




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Effective Interventions

While a great deal of information on effective early intervention practice is available at the resources already mentioned above, we would like to pull out and note a few resources in areas of common concern with delivery of early intervention services.

Really? Assistive technology for infants and toddlers with disabilities?
Yes, indeed, there are many ways in which AT can optimize such young children's development and learning. Visit the Tots 'n Tech Research Institute (TnT) and find out how. TnT has lots of materials and guidance for families and early interventionists alike.

Funding assistive technology.
This annotated bibliography from NECTAC presents resources exploring the various assistive technology funding sources for infants, toddlers and young children with disabilities.

Helping children learn that there's a relationship between their behavior and its consequences.
The RTC on Early Childhood Development describes what's effective in "early contigency" learning and how disability or developmental delays affect a child's speed in learning the connection between their behavior and the consequences it may have. Implications for practice are described in terms of the environmental arrangements most likely to optimize the greatest amount of positive social responding. And hey! There's info in Spanish: ¡Sí! ¡Hice que pasará! (YES! I made it happen!) and ¡No hay apuro! Las investigaciones comprueban que vale el ser paciente (No rush! Research proves it pays to be patient).

Addressing challenging behavior in general.
If this is your area of interest and concern, then, really, crawl all over the Web site of the Center for Evidence-Based Practice: Young Children with Challenging Behavior. You'll find handouts, research, and training materials galore. Here are just a few titles to whet your appetite:

  • Research Synthesis on Effective Intervention Procedures
  • Systems of Service Delivery: A Synthesis of Evidence
  • Relevant to Young Children With or At Risk of Challenging Behavior
  • Supporting Infants and Toddlers with Challenging Behavior
  • Comprehensive Evidence-Based Social-Emotional Curricula for Young Children

Young children with disruptive behavior disorders and Parent-Child Intervention Therapy (PCIT).
Here's another research-based resource from the RTC on Early Childhood Development. This one focuses upon Parent-Child Intervention Therapy (PCIT). Implications for practice are described in terms of core relationship-building and skills that parents can implement in order to optimize child behavior functioning.

Solutions Tool Kits: Practice guides for parents and early childhood staff alike.
The RTC on Early Childhood Development just keeps on comin' with materials you can use. Their Solutions Tool Kits include collections of practice guides for promoting child development and learning. Any of these interest you?

Games for growing: Teaching your baby using early learning games.

Lap It Up: Early learning through parent-child lap games.

Powerful Playtime: Toys and learning for the very young child.

Literacy for Little Ones: Activities to boost beginning reading, writing, and much more!

Up Close and Personal: Strengthening the parent-child relationship.

Accentuate the Positive: Strengthening positive child behaviors.

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Staff Training and Development

Here are some resources you can use in professional development. There are quite a few. Even those from other states can be useful in developing staff knowledge and competencies.

Assistive technology: Training staff and families.

http://asu.edu/clas/tnt/appendix/ATtrainingbrief2-8-05.pdfFind out how in Assistive Technology Training for Providers & Families of Children in Early Intervention, courtesy of Tots 'n Tech Research Institute (TnT). And while you're there, you may want to read AT Self Assessments, available online at:

Designing an effective TA system to pass the word through your network.
NECTAC offers a three-part workbook that's intended to serve as a planning resource for state officials to help them think strategically about their technical assistance (TA) systems---how to design it, how to use it to improve capacity throughout the system. For the small cost of $5.00...read what you'll get at the link above.

Dealing with specific disabilities.
While professional practice guidelines are generally available within the individual professional disciplines (e.g., speech-language pathology, mobility and orientation, hearing habilitation), here are some resources you might find useful for working with children (or parents) who have specific disabilities.

Down syndrome and speech-language treatment.
Here's another chapter from a 1998 book, this one called Down Syndrome: A Promising Future, Together, which appears online with permission of Wiley-Liss, Inc., a subsidiary of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Title of the chapter? "Comprehensive Speech and Language Treatment for Infants, Toddlers, and Children with Down Syndrome." More articles can be accessed via the home page (www.ds-health.com/), including "Why Physical Therapy?" and "Occupational Therapy and DS."

The epilepsy.com/professionals Resource Library is an online epilepsy resource offering a comprehensive library of materials available for download that will help healthcare professionals better help those living with epilepsy. Find articles such as "Giving Medicine to Infants and Toddlers," "Classification of Epilepsies & Epilepsy Syndromes," and "First Aid for Seizures."

For more on specific disabilities, don't forget NICHCY's info.
We didn't mention the disability you're concerned with? We DID mention it, but you need more? Try these two places on our site, which will help you identify organizations on specific disabilities who offer in depth knowledge about the disability in question.

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Materials from Commercial Publishers

Depending on your needs, you may wish to visit the Web sites of commercial publishers, who offer a very useful range of materials helpful in early intervention, including recommended practices for working with children with specific disabilities, DVDs, training guides, and much more. We've listed some of the "biggies" below to get you started. More are listed in NICHCY's Connections...to Disability Publishers.

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).

Pro-Ed, Inc.

Scroll down to "Early Childhood Development" and find books, materials, and tests.

Sopris West.

Woodbine House.

Thomson Delmar Learning.

Institute for Family-Centered Care.

Love Publishing.
Just click on “special education” at this publisher’s Web site to find a categorical list of special-needs resources, including early intervention resources.

Teaching Strategies.

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Other Early Intervention Resources

Some of these files may require Adobe Reader for PDF files. These files are noted as PDF at the end of the site explanation. If you do not have Adobe Reader you can download it for free by Clicking Here

-Assistive Technology

-Child and Family Outcomes

-Developmental Disabilities Database

-Division of Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children

-Effectiveness of Infant and Early Childhood Programs


-Family Involvement and Partnerships


-General Information-Early Childhood Resources


-Race to the Top- Early Learning Challenge from the Obama Administration


-Individual's With Disabilities Education Act of 1997


-Literacy and Early Intervention


-Monitoring State Compliance of IDEA

-NCEO Framework for Educational Accountability

-OSEP Accountability

-Paraprofessional Resources

-Program Standards

-Public Awareness


-Recruitment and Retention

-Reporting Requirements

-Screening, Evaluation and Assessment

-Service Coordination under IDEA


-State Issues and Resources

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