Early Intervention (0-3) Services in Virginia – What Is It?

Photo courtesy of Barber National Institute

What is early intervention?
Early intervention is a service provided to families of infants and toddlers (birth through the child’s third birthday) with developmental delays and disabilities. All 50 states offer early intervention services. Services include speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy, among others.

What are the developmental milestones for young children? What should I do if my child does not meet the milestones for their age?
Children have several areas of development, including social/emotional, language, fine motor, and gross motor. Children develop at different rates, and they may excel in some areas, while struggling in another. Posted below is a “Red Flag Referral Guideline”. If your child is not meeting certain milestones for their age, consider making an appointment with your child’s pediatrician, or you can contact local early intervention services directly.

Developmental Milestone Chart
Developmental Milestones – 6 months – 5 years

Why should I consider early intervention for my child?
There are two major considerations when deciding whether your child might benefit from early intervention services: neural plasticity and overall future development.

Neural Plasticity – The brain is much more malleable, or plastic, during early childhood. As we age, our brains become less plastic. Interventions are less likely to succeed as children age – even as “old” as three years old! Furthermore, early intervention encourages a  holistic, community-based approach, in which care is provided to children not only by their parents, but also trusted professionals such as speech, physical, and occupational therapists. Positive interactions with caring adults can reinforce appropriate neural development, and improves cognitive and language development.

Future Development – According to The National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, “Positive early experiences are essential prerequisites for later success in school, the workplace, and the community. Services to young children who have or are at risk for developmental delays have been shown to positively impact outcomes across developmental domains, including health, language and communication, cognitive development, and social/emotional development. Families benefit from early intervention by being able to better meet their children’s special needs from an early age and throughout their lives. Benefits to society include reducing economic burden through a decreased need for special education.”

How does early intervention work?
Anybody can call and make a referral for early intervention services – parents, pediatricians, or other concerned adults in the child’s life. Early intervention specialists will then conduct a developmental evaluation on the child. Evaluations are always free! After the child is evaluated, eligibility for services will be determined, and an IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan) with measurable goals for the child’s development will be written. Services are provided in the child’s natural environment – typically in the family’s home, but providers may also come to daycare centers, as well.

How do I contact early intervention?
For the City of Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania County, King George County, Stafford County, and Caroline County, you can call Infant & Toddler Connection of the Rappahannock Area at 540-372-3561. For other areas of Virginia, please refer to the Infant & Toddler Connections of VA information sheet.

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