What are Early Intervention Services?

Early intervention means identifying and providing effective early support to children who are at risk of developmental delays, have developmental delays or that have an intellectual disability.  

What is a developmental Delay?

The term “developmental delay” is an important one in early intervention. Broadly speaking, it means that a child is delayed in some area of development; Cognitive, Physical, Communication, Social/Emotional and Adaptive Development.

Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. About one in six children in the U.S. have one or more developmental disabilities or other developmental delays.

Who is at risk for a developmental delay?

Developmental disabilities begin anytime during the developmental period and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime. Most developmental disabilities begin before a baby is born, but some can happen after birth because of injury, infection, or other factors.

What are intellectual disabilities?

Intellectual disability is a term used when there are limits to a person’s ability to learn at an expected level and function in daily life. Levels of intellectual disability vary greatly in children. Children with intellectual disability might have a hard time letting others know their wants and needs, and taking care of themselves. Intellectual disability could cause a child to learn and develop more slowly than other children of the same age. It could take longer for a child with intellectual disability to learn to speak, walk, dress, or eat without help, and they could have trouble learning in school.

Intellectual disability can be caused by a problem that starts any time before a child turns 18 years old – even before birth. It can be caused by injury, disease, or a problem in the brain. For many children, the cause of their intellectual disability is not known. Some of the most common known causes of intellectual disability – like Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, fragile X syndrome, genetic conditions, birth defects, and infections – happen before birth. Others happen while a baby is being born or soon after birth. Still other causes of intellectual disability do not occur until a child is older; these might include serious head injury, stroke, or certain infections.

What are developmental milestones and why are they so important? 

Developmental milestones are behaviors or skills that illustrate a child’s growth in a number of areas. The milestones have been established based on what most children can do at a certain age. Examples are the age at which a child smiles for the first time, takes his/her first steps, or says his/her first words.

What should a parent or caregiver be looking for?

All children develop at different rates, and not meeting milestones at the same time as other children the same age is not always a reason to worry. For example, some babies start walking as early as 9 months, while others may not take their first step for more than a year. Sometimes children who may appear to be lagging catch up on their own, but a child with developmental disabilities, such as autism, will need therapeutic intervention to reach their best potential.

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