Early Intervention (EI) services are federally and/or state funded health-related services that are provided to a child from birth to three years of age, if they qualify for services. Services are provided regardless of income, medical diagnoses, or location. Services may include: Assistive technology, audiology, vision services, family training, nursing services, occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychological services, social work services, special instruction, and speech-language pathology (speech/language/feeding therapy).
Any family can request an initial intake/evaluation through Early Intervention Programs. Your child does not have to have a formal diagnosis to receive an evaluation. Your physician can also make a referral for Early Intervention, but it is not required.
Services occur in the home, where therapists will work with the family and the child in their most natural setting. For some children, therapy may take place in preschool or daycare settings for families who are not home during the day. In these cases, the therapist will provide strategies to the teacher or caregiver to promote progress toward your child’s goals.
EI therapists focus their therapy on the family’s expectations for the child and tailor their goals to the family’s wants and needs for the child.
Parents and caregivers are the main “therapy providers,” in which they are the individuals conducting the therapy and the EI therapist trains the parents on appropriate techniques.
Once a child is evaluated by the EI team and services are recommended, an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) will be developed. This is a plan that encompasses the results of testing, goals of the family, frequency of therapy (i.e., 30 minutes/week) and additional recommendations. This is a legal document that must be signed by both the family and the Early Intervention Team before initiating therapy.
It is the parent’s responsibility to advocate for their child and ensure that the proper services are provided.
Each state, county, or district has different guidelines on how Early Intervention Services are billed. In some states and counties (including Montgomery County), services are completely free of charge to families. In other states and counties (including Fairfax County), families are billed through their health insurance and responsible for a co-pay or deductible. Many families can receive therapy services through a hospital or private practice in addition to the Early Intervention Services; however, families should always confirm this with their EI provider.
Also, each state, country, or district has different qualifications to receive therapy. Some counties state that a child must have a delay of 25% in a given area. Some counties have higher and lower qualifications. It is important to note that if your child does not qualify for Early Intervention Services, he/she may still require therapy, which can be provided at MGUH or other hospitals and private practices.