Early Intervention: First Steps in the Right Direction
Early intervention is a series of services that focus on the development of the infant and toddler – either with a disability or developmental delay. Through early intervention, a child can learn new skills and move forward with their development.
We spoke with Elizabeth Collazo, an Early Interventionist. For those who are not familiar with this term, an early interventionist is also a primary service provider who assists families with strategies that can work for them in their daily routines. The focus is to personalize and individualize the service to the needs of the child and the family, and may include any of the following:
- ITDS – Infant Toddler Development Specialist
- Speech Language Pathology
- Physical Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Nutrition services
- Nursing services
- Medical services
- Audiology or hearing services
- Assistive technology devices a child may require
A benefit of early intervention is that it is family friendly – supporting the children and their parents in their natural environments, including in the home, in parks, at a preschool, or even a babysitter’s house or a grandparent’s home – wherever is needed. A park can be overwhelming to a young child, with all the different equipment. According to Elizabeth, through play at a park, we can help a child explore their surroundings and feel more comfortable out in different areas. We can help eliminate a vulnerability.
One of the areas we work with is play because the role of play is crucial. Working with nursery rhymes and sensory play can help quite a bit. One example is working with a little boy who likes cars, and we lined up the cars and did a car wash.
The first step is to qualify for early intervention, and then we work with the family to find the right match and get them the help they need. Evaluations are holistic, meaning we look at the whole picture rather than focus only on one area. Our family resource specialists help find resources in the area, including with organizing playgroups for the socialization of both the child and parents.
Qualification for Early Intervention
Qualification begins with a referral, after which you have 45 days for the evaluation, initial assessments of the child and family, and the writing of the IFSP, which is provided free of charge. Anyone can refer a child for early intervention services; even a parent can do a self-referral. The program is voluntary, so the parent can decide whether to get involved, even if the referral came from outside, such as a relative, friend, doctor, or even a neighbor. Anyone who believes a child and family may benefit from these services can make a referral.
Children with established conditions qualify easier because they have already been diagnosed by a doctor. With developmental delays, you have to go through the intake process to determine if they qualify for the evaluation.
The five areas of development evaluated for intervention need include:
- Physical including hearing and vision
- Social or emotional
During the intake process, the coordinator and the caregivers get together to go over some questions, and then the coordinator plays with the child to determine if the qualifications for the evaluation are met. If so, following the evaluation, an IFSP – individualized family service plan – is developed to determine what goals are to be accomplished, and how to get there.
During the evaluation, there are three team members present – the coordinator, a case manager who develops the IFSP, and an infant delay developmental specialist. The focus of early intervention is to start as soon as possible to best help the child’s development in the early years.
(Continued on page 2)