Navigating the Early Intervention Process


Early Intervention

During the first three years of life, a child’s brain is most receptive to new information and forming connections. Developmental delays can interrupt this process, and essential developmental opportunities can be lost unless diagnosed early. Early recognition and assessment allow for effective intervention that will allow the child to reach their full potential. It is important to understand where to seek help when delays are suspected.

Pediatricians and Primary Care Physicians

Pediatricians and family physicians make developmental observation an integral part of a child’s regular wellness visits. Doctors routinely assess the children in their care for a set of milestones that typically include the following:

  • Gross motor skills
  • Fine motor skills
  • Speech and language development
  • Social and emotional development
  • Cognitive skills

A pediatrician may conduct more in-depth developmental screenings at certain checkups, usually around 9 months, 18 months, and 30 months. These screenings can also be prompted if the physician’s observations raise concerns or if the child’s parent has noticed signs of developmental delays. These screenings may include more detailed observation and tools such as the Ages and Stages Questionnaire.

If developmental screening reveals the possibility of developmental delays, the physician will refer the parent to a specialist. If the area of concern is apparent, the referral may be to a specific specialist such as a speech therapist, hearing specialist, or neurologist. For a more detailed assessment, the parent may be referred to an early intervention specialist.

Early Intervention Specialists

The primary goal of an early intervention specialist is to identify developmental delays and design a care plan that includes specific interventions and support services that can help a child reach their full potential. These professionals often work in conjunction with other developmental specialists in private offices, within the school system, or within the structure of state health services.

Early intervention specialists have access to in-depth diagnostic tools such as the (ABAS®-3) Adaptive Behavior Assessment System, Third Edition which can help to develop a treatment plan that maximizes daily living skills and monitors progress over time. They may also utilize assessments such as the (SPM™-2) Sensory Processing Measure, Second Edition and SPM-2 Quick Tips™. This is a powerful assessment system that focuses on the diagnosis and effective treatment of sensory delays in children.

State Programs

The federal government provides funding for each state’s Early Intervention programs through the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. State-provided early intervention services are typically free and include services such as speech, language, and physical therapy.

Additionally, though it is not a dedicated program for early intervention, Headstart is a government program that helps children up to 36 months of age get ready for school and strengthen developmental and cognitive skills. Headstart facilitators can be instrumental in identifying developmental delays and providing referrals to professionals who can help.

WPS Assessment Tools

Identifying, assessing, and treating developmental delays in children as early as possible maximizes the opportunity to help them overcome challenges and reach their potential. WPS has been an industry leader in the assessment of autism and developmental delays for more than 70 years. They are also active in the development of new assessment tools that are changing the industry. Learn more about how companies like WPS help kids in school with accurate and effective assessment tools.

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