How Early Intervention Works for Kids With Developmental Delays

How Early Intervention Works for Kids With Developmental Delays

For a parent who suspects her baby or toddler has delays, Early Intervention may be key.

By Judy Koutsky

Suspecting that your child may have a disability can be scary territory for a parent; however, we don’t have to flail and worry all alone. Beyond your pediatrician, there are a number of resources available to get your child tested and, if need be, get him the help he needs. One important resource is the national Early Intervention (EI) program that helps babies, toddlers, and kids under 3 who may be delayed. Here, some answers to questions you may have, along with feedback from a number of experts.

1. Should I get my child evaluated for Early Intervention? If you think your child is delayed in some capacity -- speech, physical therapy, socialization or behaviorally -- there’s no harm in getting him or her evaluated. “EI is an incredible program. The benefits can be lifelong and profound,” says Gordy Rogers, MS, CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist and clinical founder of Speech Buddies.

2. Why is the “early” aspect of Early Intervention so important? “If your child receives early intensive help, then they have the best chance to learn the skills they need to be successful in school and beyond,” says Mary Ann Cassell, MA, BCBA, superintendent at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) Academy in Alexandria, Virginia.

3. What are the benefits of EI? Early intervention services can be very beneficial to students with disabilities, says Richard J. Murphy, PLC, a lawyer who specializes in assisting families in special education matters. “The earlier students get the services they need, the more likely the services will be effective. This is especially true for students with autism spectrum disorder.”

4. How do I know if my child needs EI? The first step is to talk to you doctor. Discuss your concerns and bring up any issues you may have. Ask your doctor if your child is reaching milestones.

5. What happens if I think my child is only delayed in one area? Should I still get him evaluated for everything? Yes. Why? Because a delay in one area might be affecting your child in ways you may not be aware. “For example, if a child has significant speech delays, then they may have delays in other areas that speech is a part of including social, play, and academic areas,” says Cassell. This is why experts recommend you get a full evaluation to see where your child needs help the most.

6. Will my child get labeled? While some parents are concerned about their child being labeled, Murphy notes that “the privacy of student records is protected under federal law.” The main concern for parents should be to get the help their children need, especially at a critical age.

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7. Can a label or diagnosis help your child? While a label or diagnosis may feel like a stigma, it can help get the maximum services the child needs, notes Rogers. Also, “as your child progresses, the label can be updated or even removed as appropriate,” adds Cassell.


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8. What happens if your child isn’t found eligible for EI, but still needs help? If you or your pediatrician think your child has a speech delay or impediment, but he doesn’t qualify for EI services, the best route may be to go for private therapy.

9. What if your pediatrician or spouse thinks everything is fine, but your gut instinct says something is wrong? “Getting a second (and sometimes third or fourth) opinion is a good idea. A delay in getting proper services for a student with a disability could mean that the student misses an opportunity to fully address their needs,” says Murphy. Also, if you get your child evaluated for EI and he does not qualify, you’re able to get him evaluated again in six months.

10. If your child doesn’t qualify for EI and you still think something is wrong, where do you get good expert advice? “There are experts that can help you to find out if there is a reason to be concerned. You may want to seek help from a developmental pediatrician,” advises Cassell. These doctors are trained to look at medical, behavioral, and psychological issues your child might be facing.

11. Is there any reason not to have your child evaluated? There is never harm in getting an evaluation. “I would recommend, without hesitation, getting the evaluation. The only cost is a couple hours out of your life -- the evaluation is free,” says Rogers. Information means peace of mind and in the case of a child who does need services, the evaluation is what gets the ball rolling.

Has your child had a positive experience with Early Intervention?

Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of, AOL Parent and Follow her on Twitter @JudyKoutsky.

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