“Early Intervention can have a significant impact on a child’s development and is an opportunity for children and families to experience early success.”

What You’ll Learn
  • What is early intervention and how will it support my child’s development?
  • Who is eligible for early intervention?
  • What do early intervention services look like and how do I make a referral?

When a child’s learning capacity is significantly limited, impaired, or delayed in one or more areas of development—including language, cognition, physical, social, emotional, or adaptive functioning—this is considered a developmental delay. There are several opportunities to identify a potential delay and provide effective early support to help your child reach their full potential. In this blog post, I will share strategies to navigate early intervention effectively and empower your child’s developmental journey.


What is Early Intervention (EI)?

Early Intervention (EI) is a service supported by Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for children birth to age three who have developmental delays or are at risk of a developmental delay. EI services are meant to support children and their families through individualized, developmentally-appropriate experiences within the child’s natural environment and the family’s everyday life. EI can have a significant impact on a child’s development and is an opportunity for children and families to experience early success.


Who is Eligible for EI?

Any family with a child under three years of age may be eligible for EI services if their child:

  • Is not reaching age-appropriate milestones in one or more areas of development (identified through an evidence and play-based evaluation) 
  • Is diagnosed with a certain condition
  • Has a medical or social history which may put them at risk for a developmental delay


What do EI Services Look Like?

If a child is found eligible for early intervention services, the family is assigned a service coordinator who will help them develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). Services are individualized and reflect the child’s and family’s priorities, but often focus on skills in these areas of development:

  • Physical skills
  • Cognitive skills
  • Communication skills
  • Self-help or adaptive skills
  • Social or emotional skills

EI services often take place in the family’s home or community—reflecting evidence that infants and toddlers learn best through meaningful everyday experiences and interactions with familiar people in familiar places. Early intervention is publicly funded and available to any eligible child for free or at a reduced cost until a child’s third birthday.


Referring a Child to EI Programs

You may be able to notice signs of a developmental delay as early as infancy. If you are concerned about your child’s development before the age of three, you can ask your doctor for a referral (although not necessary) or call your state or territory’s early intervention program.

  • When calling your doctor, you can say: “I would like to schedule an appointment with the doctor because I am concerned about my child’s development.” If you are still concerned about your child’s development and a referral is not recommended, you still have the right to request one.
  • When calling your local early intervention program, you can say: “I am concerned about my child’s development and would like to schedule an evaluation.” You can find your state’s early intervention contact information here


Empowering Takeaways

  • Early intervention (EI) services are available for eligible children between birth to age three and help children and families reach their full potential. 
  • Children can be found eligible for EI services based on three criteria: having a diagnosis of a certain condition, demonstrating a developmental delay in an evaluation, and/or having a medical or social history that puts them at-risk of a developmental delay.
  • You do not need to wait for a doctor’s referral or medical diagnosis to request an EI evaluation. 


Be vibrant and keep thriving!

This article was last reviewed or updated on April 1, 2024

About the author: Rebecca is the Director at SolBe Learning. Rebecca has worked in the field of early education for over six years, with a passion for supporting the optimal development of young children and families. Rebecca holds a B.A. in early childhood education and sociology as well as an M.A. and license in school counseling.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). Learn the Signs. Act Early. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/index.html 

Choo, Y. Y., Agarwal, P., How, C. H., & Yeleswarapu, S. P. (2019). Developmental delay: Identification and management at primary care level. Singapore Medical Journal, 60(3).