Early Childhood Intervention (EI) is a system of education and support for young children (0-6 years) who have disabilities or developmental delays. In some areas, EI is also available to children who have been victims of or are at high risk for, abuse or neglect. The primary goal of EI is to provide help and resources to these children to aid them in meeting age-appropriate milestones in cognitive, social/emotional, and physical development. There are a wide range of services connected with Early Intervention but speech therapy, vision and hearing services, psychological services, occupational therapy, and therapeutic early childhood classrooms are some of the most common. Early Intervention has been shown to yield significant positive impacts on its participants’ growth and development.
Early Intervention Programs
Early Intervention has been proven valuable enough to warrant programs being available in all 50 states and in many countries around the world. Programs can be based in a central school location, out of the child’s home, or some combination of the two. Although there is a vast range of services and programs, they often fall into five broad categories of focus: Self-Help (dressing, eating), Physical (crawling, walking), Communication (listening, speaking), Cognitive (problem-solving, learning), and Social/Emotional (playing, feeling secure).
Programs are available near you (if you are in the United States).
Early Intervention Service Coordinator
An Early Intervention Service Coordinator serves as the primary point of contact for the parents of a developmentally challenged child. They play a key role in helping parents access the services provided by their specific program. In addition, they facilitate and periodically review the child’s customized development plan, organize and maintain documentation of evaluations and assessments, coordinate funding, and initiate a transition plan when the child is ready to move onto preschool, school, or elsewhere.
Early Intervention Specialist
An early education specialist is a trained educator who works directly with developmentally challenged young children and their families who are enrolled in Early Intervention programs. They sometimes will join the child in their preschool, but more frequently work one-on-one with them in their home. Their main functions are to perform an evaluation, create a treatment or educational plan, suggest learning activities, establish realistic development goals, and monitor progress. They can suggest specific social service specialists if that is what the child needs such as an audiologist, speech pathologist, or occupational therapist.
Transition to Preschool from Early Intervention
Sometime after the child turns 2, the Early Intervention Service Coordinator will start the conversation about moving from the current EI program into Preschool. Ensuring a smooth shift from an Early Intervention program to Preschool is all about preparation, communication, and support. There is first a transition meeting where the child’s care team and family will create a transition plan. This plan will set goals and discuss the child’s current performance levels and the effects that may have in their new environment. A list of action items is created and can be helpful in assuring the parents and child are prepared for the upcoming changes.
Embedded Coaching in Early Intervention
Embedded Coaching connects a family-centered approach with evidence-based best practices in Early Intervention programs. The objective is to enable Early Intervention Specialists to collaborate with families to strengthen a child’s development within their existing routines. Coaching strategies are based on a few factors. First and foremost are the family and the child’s strengths and interests. Family history, goals, concerns, resources, and priorities are then considered along with the specialist’s own observations. A discussion is then had regarding the best way to help the child learn. At its core, Embedded Coaching is all about supporting and enabling parents to be better parents.