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Early Intervention – Where to Start

Every child develops at a different pace. Some children seemingly speak from the moment they are born, others are late talkers. When you realize your child is behind, where do you go for help? 

Each state has a system to provide help to children between the ages of 0-3 who are developmentally delayed. When your child is not developing the expected speech, motor, adaptive, or cognitive skills, parents can turn to Early Intervention services. What I am sharing about Early Intervention is based upon New Jersey state law. If you live in a different state, I encourage you to go to your state’s department website and explore your state’s guidelines. While many similarities exist between state early intervention programs, it is best to know the details of your specific state’s requirements before your child is evaluated.

What is Early Intervention? 

As Defined by New Jersey State Law (found here) Early Intervention encompasses services provided by the New Jersey Early Intervention System(NJEIS) that are:

1. Designed to meet the developmental needs of each eligible child and the needs of the child’s family, as identified by the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) team, related to enhancing the child’s development. 

2. Selected in collaboration with the parents. 

3. Provided Under public supervision by qualified personnel  subject to the system of payments by families, including a schedule of sliding fees established by the Department. *

Basically, Early Intervention is a service provided by the state to help children who are demonstrating delays in speech, cognition, motor skills, or adaptive skills. These services are implemented by trained and licensed professionals. Parents are included in the evaluation and treatment process. 

Who can make a referral to Early Intervention?

In the state of NJ, the initial person who makes a referral directly to the Early Intervention service team is considered a primary referral source. A primary referral source can include: A physician such as your pediatrician, a hospital, a daycare provider, a public health facility, a social service agency such as CYS, a parent or family member, or a healthcare provider. 

Go to your state health Department Website to find contact information. For NJ residents, click here.

What happens once a referral is made? 

Once a referral is made to NJEIS, you will placed in touch with a service coordinator. Make sure you have records and detailed information about your child’s development. The service coordinator will schedule a visit with you. At the visit, he will review all concerns you have about your child’s development, any medical records, and consult with a professional SLP. To see a simple breakdown of speech and language milestones, click here. 

Once you have provided written consent to the service coordinator, your child will undergo a series of evaluations. An evaluation (defined by the state of NJ) is “the process of gathering information about the child to see how he or she is developing and is used to determine eligibility for early intervention services”. The evaluation will be conducted at your home or a local facility utilized by the agency performing the evaluation. For a concerns regarding speech and language, a professional SLP will carry out the evaluation. Other professionals may also be involved to assess your child’s walking/movement, vision, hearing, and cognition. The evaluation results will determine if your child is eligible to receive early intervention services.

Who is Eligible for Services?

To be eligible for early intervention services, a child must meet the criteria in at least one of the following areas: 

  1. Developmental Delay– Must be measured using a designated standard evaluation tool that includes a clinical opinion in all of the following areas of development: Physical (gross motor, fine motor, vision and hearing); Cognition; Communication; Social or emotional; and Adaptive. *

To be eligible, a child must demonstrate measured delays in development of at least 2.0 standard deviations below the mean in one developmental area; or 1.5 standard deviations below the mean in two or more of the developmental areas. (This breaks down to a delay of either 33 percent in one developmental area or 25 percent in two or more developmental areas based on the evaluations conducted.)

  1. Conditions with High Probability – This category of eligibility includes children who have identified conditions but who may not be exhibiting delays in development at the time of eligibility. (For example, a Child with a hearing impairment, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, etc.). Children are eligible who have a diagnosed condition that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay. *

If your child qualifies for services, the evaluation team will create an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). An IFSP is a legal document that outlines your child’s current developmental status, the recommended services, and the frequency at which those services are to be provided. Often, early intervention services are provided by the state free of charge to you, however the cost of services in the state of NJ depends upon your household annual income.

For more information, check out the New Jersey Department of Health website. 

*Information taken from NJ Administrative Code Title 8, Chapter 17


Published by Bethany Z

Hi there! Thanks for stopping by. I am a Christian, wife, mom, and speech language pathologist. I started this site out of a desire bridge the gap between a traditional therapy setting and the home setting. Parents are the most powerful influencers in a child's developement! My goal is to enable YOU to meet your childs speech needs while sharing glimpses of my life along the way.

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