An Overview of Early Intervention Services

Early Intervention Services (EIS) refers to specialized services designed to meet the needs of infants and toddlers, birth to age three, who have a developmental delay or disability. All states, United States jurisdictions, and the Department of Defense (DoD) have EIS for all children with disabilities from birth through age three. Within the Department of Defense (DoD), the military medical departments provide EIS services through their Educational and Development Intervention Services (EDIS) program.

Eligibility for EIS

Generally, a child must meet one of the following three criteria to be eligible for EIS/EDIS services:

  • have a diagnosed condition that has a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay, including, but not limited to, Down syndrome, spina bifida, hearing or vision loss, and cerebral palsy
  • be experiencing developmental delays, as defined by the state or DoD, in one or more developmental areas: cognitive, physical (including vision and hearing), communication, social, emotional, or adaptive
  • at risk of having substantial developmental delays (at state or DoD discretion) if early intervention services are not provided

For EIS, eligibility varies from state to state due to differences in both definitions of developmental delay and the list of conditions that are likely to result in developmental delay. Therefore, children who are eligible for services in one state may not be eligible in another state. The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA Center) maintains a listing of each state's criteria for services.

DoD Instruction 1342.12 provides specific guidance on the standard definition for developmental delay and uniform criteria for conditions likely to result in eligibility under a developmental delay for DoD.

EIS/EDIS program costs

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that no family is denied educational services for a child with special needs because of finances. It provides guidance to all states and DoD regarding identification of disabilities, evaluation, on-going assessment, and service planning/coordination for education at no cost to families. However, direct services such as speech therapy may or may not be fully funded under individual state programs.

  • EIS. States use a variety of methods to pay for direct services including sliding scale fees and public or private insurance in addition to Federal and state IDEA funding. TRICARE will share the cost of early identification services not covered by the state if those services are deemed medically and psychologically necessary. Questions about paying for early intervention services can be answered by the TRICARE Beneficiary Counseling and Assistance Coordinator.
  • EDIS. When DoD is the provider of EIS through the EDIS programs, there is no cost to the parents.

The EIS process

All states, territories, and the DoD provide EIS programs to infants and toddlers from birth to age three who are developmentally delayed or at high-risk for a developmental delay. The medical departments for each branch of Service have been designated as responsible for EDIS in locations served by a DoD school. The process for receiving services through an EIS program includes:

  • Identification and Screening. Child Find is a required program in every state, territory, and across the DoD that identifies children who might require EIS. If parents suspect their infant or toddler has a disability or a developmental delay, they can ask for a screening. The local military hospital or school system can help parents find a screening location.
  • Referral. Referrals for EIS are usually made by a child's parents or physician. For EIS programs, referrals can be made to the local agency designated as having responsibility for EIS. Within the DoD, referrals are made to the EDIS program that serves the family's installation or overseas location. When the referral is made by someone other than the parents, parents must be notified. An evaluation cannot begin until parents give their permission.
  • Service Coordinator. Once an infant or toddler has been referred for EIS, a service coordinator or case manager is assigned to gather information, arrange for assessments and evaluations to be completed, and keep parents informed throughout the process.
  • Evaluation by a Multi-Disciplinary Team. A multi-disciplinary team will conduct observations, test(s), and interviews to determine a child's unique strengths and weaknesses.
  • Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). If the infant or toddler is eligible for EIS, a team of individuals, including the parents, will develop an IFSP to address the needs of the child and family. The IFSP is a written document that includes goals, intended outcomes, and a plan for making the transition to additional services when the child is no longer eligible for EIS programs.

Additional information

In the continental United States, more information on EIS programs can be found through the following resources:

For overseas services, more information on the EDIS program can be found through your Services website or the local military treatment facility (MTF). Contact information for MTFs can be found through the TRICARE MTF Locator.


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