Early Intervention

Knowing or suspecting that a child has a disability or developmental delay can be scary and overwhelming. Although all children develop differently, sometimes a parent, pediatrician or caregiver will notice that a child is not reaching expected milestones. It is important to know that there are things that can be done to help. Early Intervention focuses on services for children from birth until they turn 3. RedTreehouse can answer questions about Early Intervention and help to point parents in the right direction.

What is Early Intervention?

The Federal law that created it

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that makes a “free appropriate public education” available to eligible children with disabilities. Part C of IDEA covers “early intervention” services. These services are available from birth until the child’s third birthday.

The role of state governments

Every year the federal government awards grant money to each state to provide early intervention services to children who reside in their state. Each state has its own early intervention program and the names of these programs can vary. In Ohio, the early intervention program was previously called Help Me Grow EI and is now simply called Early Intervention or EI. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (ODDD) are jointly responsible for the EI program. EI services are administered at the county level and each of the 88 Ohio counties has a contract manager and a Family and Children First Council Coordinator who can help families get started. To find the contacts in your county click here.

Skills that early intervention can help with:

  • Physical (rolling, crawling, sitting, standing, walking, reaching)

  • Cognitive (thinking, learning, problem-solving)

  • Communication (talking, listening, understanding)

  • Social/emotional (playing, interacting with others)

  • Self-help (eating, dressing)

Examples of early intervention services that a child might receive:

  • Physical/occupational therapy

  • Speech/language therapy

  • Psychological services

  • Nutritional services

  • Nursing services

  • Assistive technology

To learn more about what early intervention is and the types of services most states provide check out Early Intervention: What it is and How it Works. Redtreehouse.org provides information about the Ohio EI program at EI.

How can I find out if my child qualifies for Early Intervention?

There are many ways to find out if your child qualifies for early intervention. Sometimes your child will need to have an evaluation prior to being qualified, but not always. If your child has a physical or mental disability that is likely to result in a developmental delay, he or she will automatically be eligible for early intervention services. To see a list of disabilities that will automatically qualify a child for early intervention services in Ohio, visit appendix 07-A.

If your child does not have a diagnosis listed in the above appendix, but you suspect a problem, you may request an evaluation to determine if your child is eligible to receive early intervention services. You can request an evaluation by:

  • Asking your child’s pediatrician for an EI referral.

  • Calling the pediatric department at your local hospital and asking them who you can call to find out about early intervention services in your area.

  • Contacting your county EI coordinator at county contacts.

What Early Intervention services are available in my area?

Early Intervention services are available in all 88 Ohio counties. The best way to find a complete list of early intervention service providers in your area is to contact your county EI coordinator at county contacts.

Who pays for Early Intervention?

Some early intervention services are available free of charge regardless of family income. In all states, the initial evaluation is free. For services that are not free, private health insurance and Medicaid can be a source of payment. If a family does not have insurance or the insurance does not fully cover the early intervention service, they family may be asked to pay on a sliding fee scale that is based on income. To understand more about who pays for early intervention services in Ohio visit Disability Rights Ohio. For another general overview about paying for early intervention that is not specific to Ohio, check out this link.

Does Early Intervention really work?

Many years of research show that early intervention does help children with disabilities. These studies show that children’s earliest experiences play a critical role in brain development. Intervention is more effective and less costly when it is provided to very young children then older children or adults. For an overview of why early intervention works, see The Importance of Early Intervention.

Scientific data is of course important, but sometimes the best way to understand the impact that early intervention can have is to hear directly from other parents. The Partnership for People with Disabilities has posted several short videos featuring parents whose children have benefited from early intervention services. These videos can be viewed here (see “Impact of Early Intervention” section).

What if I have a concern about my child’s development or my pregnancy, but not sure if Early Intervention is necessary?

If you have a concern about your child’s development and want to make a referral to Early Intervention, you can call 1-800-755-4769 or make an online referral to Help Me Grow.

There are a number of programs that might be able to help. Making a referral is the first and easy step for parents who have questions or concerns about their infant or child. One referral to Help Me Grow opens the door to many programs that support families, including Early Intervention, Home Visiting, and Moms and Babies First.

Home Visiting and Moms and Babies First are programs overseen by the Ohio Department of Health that promote healthy pregnancies, as well as positive growth and development for babies and young children. Services are provided at no cost to eligible families.

This guide was developed as part of a project made possible by a Grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the Ohio State Bar Foundation.

Lead researcher/author: Helen Livingston Rapp, Esq., RedTreehouse.org Legal Intern