Childhood intervention programs for the disadvantaged focus on the benefits that accrue to the children. Programs may influence the parents (typically the mother), as most programs provide services to the mother as well as the child.
To be eligible for services, children must be less than 3 years of age and have a confirmed disability or established developmental delay, as determined by the state, in one or more of the following areas of development: physical, cognitive, communication, social-emotional, and/or adaptive.
The Early Intervention Program offers a rich variety of therapeutic and support services to eligible infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families, including:
- family education and counseling, home visits, and parent support groups
- special instruction
- speech pathology and audiology
- occupational therapy
- physical therapy
- psychological services
- service coordination
- nursing services
- nutrition services
- social work services
- vision services
- assistive technology devices and services
Early intervention applies to children of school age or younger who are discovered to have or are at risk of developing a handicapping condition or other special need that may affect their development. Early intervention consists of the provision of services to such children and their families for the purpose of lessening the effects of the condition. Early intervention can be remedial or preventive in nature – remediating existing developmental problems or preventing their occurrence.
Early intervention may focus on the child alone or on the child and the family together.
Early intervention programs may be center-based, home-based, hospital-based, or a combination. Services range from identification – that is, hospital or school screening and referral services – to diagnostic and direct intervention programs. Early intervention may begin at any time between birth and school age; however, there are many reasons for it to begin as early as possible.