If your child is under 3 years old, he or she might be eligible for Early Intervention (EI) services. EI is a program for infants and toddlers who currently have, or are at risk of having, a developmental delay (children who develop differently or at a slower rate than most other children). These developmental concerns may be due to many reasons, including environmental factors.
EI uses a family-centered approach—that is, focusing on the whole family, not just the child. EI helps families recognize and understand their child’s particular developmental needs, and learn different ways to help their child.
Examples of children who may be eligible for EI services include children who:
- Are born prematurely (less than 32 weeks)
- Have feeding, vision, or hearing problems
- Are slow to sit up, stand, walk, talk, or do things for themselves
- Have behavior or attention difficulties
- Are born with a disability or health condition that affects their development
If you think your child might need EI services, discuss your concerns with your child’s primary care provider (PCP). A free developmental evaluation can be scheduled to determine whether your child would benefit from, and is eligible to receive, EI services.
Parents may also refer their child for an EI evaluation themselves. Contact Massachusetts Family TIES at 800-905-TIES (8437) or 617-624-5992 (TTY) to find the EI program nearest you.
Paying for EI Services
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health and health insurance plans usually pay for EI services. Families are required to pay an annual cost participation fee for Early Intervention services. This fee is based on family size and income. Call the Member Services Representative at your health plan for more information on EI services.
Early Intervention Team
Your child's EI team may include the following professionals:
- Speech therapists
- Physical therapists
- Social workers
- Occupational therapists
- Developmental educators
- Teaching assistants
- You, as the parent, must be a part of the team
Together with families, the EI team decides what type of developmental help would be most useful for your child. This information is used to create an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).
Individualized Family Service Plan
An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is created for every child enrolled in Early Intervention (EI). EI staff works with the family to develop the plan. The IFSP includes assessments of the child and descriptions of both family needs and strengths. It also lists all the education, training, therapy, and support services the child and family will receive and who will deliver these services.
If you believe that your child will have ongoing special education needs, you should request a special education referral at least six months before your child's third birthday. Contact the school district in your city or town to request a special education referral. This referral can help your child transition from EI to the education system at age 3.
This information is provided in part by the Division of Perinatal, Early Childhood, and Special Health Needs within the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and mass.gov.