Parenting, Special Needs

How Early Intervention can help your child

How Early Intervention can help your child meet his milestones on time 

It’s hard not wonder what age is the right age for Early Intervention (EI). If your child is  0 to 3 years old, and  may not be meeting developmental milestones on time, she  may be a good candidate. EI includes therapy services such as occupational, physical and speech therapy designated for children younger than 3 who are born with a disability or diagnosis, born prematurely or born with developmental delays. 
If your child has difficulty using his hands to play, or has trouble finger feeding or spoon feeding himself, occupational therapy may be warranted. If your child has trouble crawling, standing or walking, or demonstrates odd types of movement when doing these activities, physical therapy could help. If your child does not always make eye contact, is slow with producing sounds or words, or has trouble understanding and responding to you, speech therapy might be the answer.
EI occurs in the child’s natural environment, such as in a daycare center, pre-school or at home. Created in 1986 as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Act, Early Intervention is included within the Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities Program (Part C). This program works with children ages 0 to 3 to promote the development of those who were born with a disability, to decrease developmental delays for those born at-risk and to reduce special education services as children enter the school-age years.
Louisiana’s Early Intervention program, known as EarlySteps, provides intervention based on certain criteria. A child who is born with a diagnosis or disability, premature or with developmental delay may be eligible for EarlySteps.
Why is intervention important before the age of 3?
Children’s earliest experiences play a crucial role in brain development. Neural pathways in the brain develop foundational skills, including learning, motor development, behavior and health. These neural pathways are most flexible and able to be altered during the first three years of life. 
When a disability or delay is present, these pathways can be re-routed at this young age to improve development and skill — so much so that permanent, more efficient and adapted pathways are created. After the age of 3, neural pathways become significantly more difficult to change. 
For example, if your child is having trouble walking, physical therapy can help train the brain to cue the muscles as to how they need to move and what they need to do. If your child has difficulty with using both hands to play with toys, occupational therapy can help the child learn how to use their hands by teaching the brain when and what muscles need to be activated.
How do I know and what do I do if my child needs Early Intervention?
Know the Developmental Milestones! Download the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention’s Milestone Tracker app and talk to your child’s pediatrician about his or her milestones. If you have concerns regarding development, contact the EarlySteps SPOE (Systems Point of Entry) for your region to begin the referral process. You can find a list of SPOEs on the Louisiana Department of Health’s website at If your child does not qualify for EarlySteps, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your child wouldn’t benefit from Early Intervention. Options are available to evaluate and address delays at private pediatric outpatient clinics, and therapy is often covered by insurance. 
Finding the right Early Intervention therapist
Quality Early Intervention should include a therapist who easily can establish a rapport with the child AND the family. The therapist also should include family input to develop goals based on the child’s needs, and provide ongoing education and training to promote development of skills throughout the child’s day.
Getting a head start is critical, as it can significantly improve a child’s development in the long-term when the right professional is in place. Early Intervention is an effective preventative model that leads to children needing fewer services later and, in turn, decreased costs. Early Intervention is a powerful and beneficial model when a child receives therapeutic services before it’s too late.
Kimberly Bradley, MS, LOTR, is a pediatric occupational therapist and owns Kim4Kids, LLC, in Metairie.  504.517.5437.

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