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What is Early Intervention?

Early intervention refers to services for babies who have conditions that may cause delays in the development of five areas of skills. Some babies need specialized support to develop those skills. These areas are:

  • Physical development
  • Cognitive development
  • Communication
  • Social or emotional development
  • Adaptive development

For deaf and hard of hearing babies, early intervention services usually focus on communication skills. Communication skills can be learned through sign language, spoken language, or both. Family members are the most important people in babies' lives, so early intervention services may include support for family members too. Some deaf and hard of hearing babies have other needs or disabilities. Early intervention programs should address those needs too.

What may be included in early intervention services?
All early intervention services are identified in a baby's Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). Each baby's IFSP is different, depending on the baby's and the family's needs. Services may include:

  • An evaluation of the baby's needs
  • Home visits from early intervention professionals
  • Sigh language instruction for family members
  • Audiology services
  • Speech-language services
  • Special instruction
  • Assistive technology devices and services
  • Social work services

Deaf and hard of hearing babies with other needs or additional disabilities may also receive services such as occupational therapy or physical therapy.

How are early intervention services delivered?
Early intervention services are provided in different ways and different locations. The goal is to provide services in the baby's natural environment, so many services may be provided in the home. Some other services may be provided in schools or medical centers.

Do families have to pay for services?
States are required to provide many services for free. Those services include:

  • Child Find (a federal requirement for states to find children who need early intervention services)
  • Evaluations and assessments
  • IFSP development and review
  • Service coordination

However, other services may not be free. It depends on the state where the family lives.

The federal government ensures that there is a system for deaf and hard of hearing babies and their families to receive early intervention services. The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program (EHDI) website has comprehensive information on early intervention services in each state.

Can you tell me more about early intervention?

Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, published the results of a research study into early intervention that showed the earlier deaf and hard of hearing babies were enrolled in early intervention and the more involved their families were, the higher the babies' vocabulary skills were when they reached the age of 5.

For more information about myths and facts about early intervention and/or about services for children who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families, see Early Beginnings for Children Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Guidelines for Effective Services.

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