What is Early Childhood Intervention? - Benefits & Programs

Instructor: Andrew Diamond

Andrew has worked as an instructional designer and adjunct instructor. He has a doctorate in higher education and a master's degree in educational psychology.

Wondering why everyone is buzzing about early childhood intervention? Read on to learn about the many benefits of early childhood intervention and programs offering these services.

Early Childhood Intervention

Early childhood intervention is a term that refers to programs that provide extra resources to families with children that have or are at-risk of developmental delays or disabilities. The goal of early childhood intervention is to give families with these children assistance and support to maximize their child's development in many ways: physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally.


For children that have or are at-risk for having developmental delays or disabilities, it's critical to intervene early. The highest rate of learning and development occurs in the years before a child starts school. Something not learned in these most important years will be harder to learn later in life. Children who receive early childhood intervention score better on tests, are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to require special education.

Early childhood intervention is good for whole families, too. Families with a disabled or developmentally delayed child have higher rates of stress and divorce more often. A child with difficulties is more likely to be abused than a non-disabled child. Early intervention can reduce family stress by providing the family with supportive services. Showing parents how to teach a developmentally delayed child can make them feel better about their parenting skills.

Early childhood intervention is also good for society. It encourages independence in children which can prevent that child from becoming dependent on society later in life. Early intervention has been shown to reduce the likelihood of a child committing a crime later in life or becoming a pregnant teen.


Two of the main early childhood intervention programs are Parts B and C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Head Start program.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, requires all schools that receive federal funds to provide free appropriate public education to all students, including those with disabilities.

Part C applies to newborn children through age 2 with developmental delays in a number of areas, including cognitive development, physical development, language or speech development, among others. The provisions of the Act also apply to children with diagnoses of physical or mental conditions that have a high probability of resulting in developmental delays. To make sure that such children are ready for preschool and kindergarten, the state must make identification and intervention services for very young children available to all families. Each child with a disability or developmental delay gets an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).

Part B of IDEA is very similar, but applies to older children, ages 3 through 21. If one of these children is identified as having a disability or developmental delay, she gets an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

In both parts, the concerns of the family and the child must be taken into account. All children are entitled to an evaluation to determine if the child has a disability. All children are entitled to learn in the least-restrictive environment, preferably with their peers.

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