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Every child grows and learns at their own individual pace, but researchers agree that the first three years of a child’s life are the most critical for learning. If you believe your child might have a developmental delay, providing early intervention services can help them learn and develop to their full potential. As a military family, there are services to help support you.
The Exceptional Family Member Program works with other community and military agencies to make sure you have the EIS support you and your infant or toddler need. Local school districts or health departments often provide these early intervention services.
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EIS programs are called different names in different areas, but are often referred to as Part C because that is the section of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that pertains to early intervention. Find a list of state Part C coordinators and programs by searching for your state in the Military OneSource Early Intervention Directory (Birth to 3).
Identifying the need for services
Sometimes it’s hard to identify possible delays but reviewing milestone checklists and watching the short course on Childhood Development Milestones and Identifying Delays may be helpful. Consider downloading the CDC’s Milestone Tracker App.
Make a list of your concerns and questions and talk to your child’s pediatrician. Often, physicians will give you a referral for an early intervention evaluation and point you in the right direction. However, you don’t need to have a doctor’s referral to request an evaluation.
Services under the early intervention program are available from birth through 36 months of age, in every state, and are typically provided in home and community settings. Your early intervention service coordinator oversees the services delivered by providers while your child is in early intervention.
CONUS families: The EFMP Family Support provider on your installation is a great point of contact to learn more about early intervention services in your location. The Early Intervention Directory (Birth to 3) is also a good resource, because the early intervention process is usually determined by where you live. Choose your state of residence (or where you are moving) to understand where to find services.
- If your family lives on an installation with a Department of Defense Education Activity school, you must access early intervention screening and services through the Educational and Developmental Intervention Service at the installation military treatment facility.
- If your installation does not have a DoDEA school, or you live off the installation, you must access Early Intervention Services for your child through local community services.
OCONUS families: Talk to the EFMP Family Support provider at your location to find out how to start the evaluation process or continue/transfer services. Use the Directory of Early Intervention, Special Education and Related Services in OCONUS Communities to find out which communities offer early intervention services and the types of services they provide.
Evaluation for early intervention
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To learn more about the evaluation process, contact the or reach out to your state program. Discuss your concerns and request to have your child evaluated for eligibility for early intervention services. The goal of the evaluation, also called initial assessment or eligibility assessment, is to see if your child can use help with life skills such as talking, movement, learning, etc.
Evaluation steps typically include the following:
- You will have a service coordinator/case manager assigned to answer your questions and oversee the process.
- You must sign a written consent and agree to testing. You will then work out evaluation details with the service coordinator.
- Evaluation location will typically be your home or another familiar location.
- A team of two or more will conduct the evaluation: Developmental specialist, physical therapist, speech therapist, social worker/psychologist – all experienced with young children.
- Evaluators may ask about child’s medical history. They could observe your child’s interactions with other family members, give standard tests to learn about skills and ask your child to complete play-based tasks.
Eligibility for services
After the evaluation, you’ll meet with the team to review the results and determine eligibility for services. Make sure you get all your questions answered and share if you have concerns or disagree with their findings.
Eligible: The team will write a plan that outlines the services and support your child will receive. Early intervention usually lasts until your child’s third birthday when your child may move to special education services under IDEA if needed.
Not eligible: If your child is not found eligible, and you disagree, you have the right to appeal the decision. You may also choose to research organizations with licensed professionals who can help you develop a plan and work with you and your child to overcome challenges.
Early intervention services
Early intervention focuses on improving skills in the following areas:
- Physical (reaching, crawling, walking, drawing)
- Cognitive (thinking, learning, problem solving)
- Communication skills (talking, listening, understanding)
- Self-help skills (eating, dressing)
- Social or emotional skills (playing, interacting with others)
Services might include but are not limited to: Speech and language therapy, physical or occupational therapy, psychological services, hearing or vision services, social work services, transportation, assistive technology. Your service coordinator will support you in explaining the specific services your child needs.
Take advantage of all the resources and services available to you and your family through EFMP. Get started with the Early Intervention Fact Sheet and check out the Office of Special Needs EFMP podcast series for information on enrollment, education, PCS, legal and long-term and financial planning and caregiving. And be sure to visit EFMP & Me, your 24/7 guide to everything EFMP.