Early Intervention Series: Part II: How do I know if my child needs EI and who do I contact?

Part I: What is Early Intervention can be found here.

How do I know if my child needs Early Intervention or other services?
What are symptoms or characteristics I might look for?
If I see things I am concerned about, what do i do? Who do I contact?

Now that you know what Early Intervention is, how do you know if your child, or a child close to you might benefit from Early Intervention services? There are several ways a child makes his or her way into EI.

The first way a child might enter the EI system is at birth. Children who are referred for services at birth are: premature babies; those diagnosed with a disease, disability or syndrome that affects growth and/or development; something diagnosed in utero or at birth. The parents of these children often are made aware that the child will be referred immediately after birth.

The most common way children are referred to EI is by the pediatrician. At one of the child's well checks, while the doctor runs through a few developmental questions they might notice something about the child, or the parent might alert the doctor to a concern that causes a referral to be made. Most often this happens at the 18 month and 2 year check up.

Just as often, the parents, themselves make the referral. They have a concern about some aspect of their child's development and would like to have it further assessed. Sometimes the pediatrician's downplay the parents' concerns and tell them to wait, but the parent would rather have the child evaluated sooner. Or they just begin to notice something is different, slower, or not typical and want the referral.

Another possible way is that the child, typically developing to this point, has an illness, an injury, or some other traumatic event that causes a "pause", or a complete stop, or a total loss in their developmental skills; or the child is laid up recovering and needs help to catch up to their previous development.

There is, finally, always the daycare, CPS, ER or other referral. The child had been "flying under the radar" until an event where both parent and child are reviewed in depth and concerns are noted. Daycares often refer multiple children for screenings at the same time. Sometimes the parents must follow EI services and comply with them as a requirement of a court order, or other mandated reasoning.

If a parent notices concerns they have a few options for referral to EI. They can contact their pediatrician to discuss the concerns and see if the pediatrician agrees a referral should be made. They can contact EI directly and ask for a screening or evaluation. Each county, in every state, has a type of EI program (no matter what it is named) and can be found by calling the Public Health dept. Visiting nurses, hospitals, daycare providers are usually familiar with the EI system and can help parents access EI or make the referral for them.

Next time: in depth discussions about what is considered a developmental delay, what diagnosis receives an EI referral, what are "red flags" that parents might notice or look for in their child...

Part I: What is Early Intervention?


Anonymous said...


sues2u2 said...

My son was referred to EI by being a NICU baby for a month. No, he wasn't a premie, just large, overdue & then very ill with meconium aspiration. When we left the hospital though he was completely recovered.