Early Intervention: What It Is, and Why It Is Important
What is Early Intervention?
Early intervention services are intended to provide families who have children with developmental disabilities or delays with support and resources to maximize the child’s abilities, while respecting family decisions and cultures. Services are provided at the state or local level, and often can be arranged through the local school system.
The earlier a child receives services to address the effects of hearing loss, the more time there is to influence positive learning outcomes.
What are the Goals of Early Intervention Services?
Children born with any type of developmental delay are at risk for falling behind in their educational potential. When hearing loss is diagnosed it is very important you begin the planning process for your child’s educational future. That is where early intervention services come in. Early intervention services are designed so children receive the early intervention or other services they need in a timely manner so they can enter preschool and elementary school ready to succeed.
Studies have shown that the following three goals are vital to any early intervention plan:
- A service plan developed as early as possible after the child’s diagnosis.
- Heavy involvement by families in the development and execution of the agreed upon plan.
- A highly structured plan that provides clear and measurable goals.
In the most basic terms, a child's brain is programmed to learn foundational language skills during the first six years of life, the first three years being the most critical. After age 6, it is increasingly difficult for the human brain to acquire language and speech skills.
Therefore, families who choose listening and spoken language for their children with hearing loss need to recognize that their child will need some degree of educational and (re)habilitative intervention, and then start taking steps in that direction as soon as they suspect their child has a hearing loss. The earlier the intervention, the easier it will be for the child to acquire listening and spoken language.
The Importance of Family Involvement
As with every aspect of raising your child, your full commitment and involvement in an early intervention plan is vital to the success of your child. Even with regular speech therapy, the vast majority of your child’s learning will take place with you at home. At every stage of your early intervention services, make sure you are aware of what things you can do at home to continue language development.
How Can I Access Local Services?
Early intervention can take many forms, such as getting children fitted for hearing aids, getting evaluated for a cochlear implant, providing counseling and support for parents, and teaching parents how to stimulate speech and language in their child.
Most states offer early intervention parent-infant services for families of children with disabilities up to age 3. Federal law requires that states have programs to identify children who need services and develop a plan to address those needs. In addition to public programs, there may be a private parent-infant program for children with hearing loss in your community.
Early intervention programs vary from community to community, therefore it is important to understand the basic elements of an early intervention program so you can advocate for the services your child will need.