What is Early Intervention?

Children develop many skills in the first three years of their lives. These skills are often referred to as developmental milestones. Early intervention services are available for children not meeting those milestones.

Early intervention (EI) refers to services for children (from birth to 3 years of age) that show developmental delays or disabilities. Depending on the child’s needs, services may include:

Early intervention is for children not meeting developmental milestones.
  • speech and language therapy
  • occupational therapy
  • educational services
  • physical therapy
  • audiology
  • vision services
  • social work
  • counseling
  • psychology

Talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns about your young child not meeting milestones. They can help you determine what options are available for early intervention if there is a need. Pediatricians can serve as the referral source for EI services, but a pediatrician’s referral isn’t necessary. Even without a referral, your pediatrician’s office can help you find a local EI agency.

An internet search for ‘early intervention’ in your area can also point you in the right direction. In the state of California, services are generally provided by Regional Centers (ex. San Diego Regional Center), but providing agencies vary by state and county. EI agencies will conduct a comprehensive evaluation by a team of professionals to determine if there are areas of need. This evaluation will also help guide you in receiving appropriate services.

Early childhood intervention is available in every state, mandated by law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), part C). It is a publicly funded program available free of charge or at a reduced cost for all children and their families who qualify. Additionally, in some cases, services are billable to your insurance company.

Reasons for a child to receive early intervention:

Areas of need present from birth

Examples are genetic or chromosomal disorder/disability (ex. Down Syndrome), premature birth, low birth weight, and hearing loss.

  • For concerns present from birth, a referral may occur before you and your child leave the hospital for the first time.

  • With certain genetic or chromosomal conditions, services may be available after age 3.

Delays in development

This includes not meeting milestones in one or more areas. For example, physical development, motor development, language development, or social-emotional development.


Services may be provided in your home or a familiar environment for the child, such as a daycare. Additionally services are sometimes offered in a pediatric clinic. Frequency and duration of sessions varies, depending on your child’s individual needs. Goals of each session are individualized to your child and family.

Early intervention services can change a child’s developmental path. Families receive the benefit of being better able to meet their child’s needs. Children receive increased opportunities to meet their developmental milestones.

If you have concerns about your child’s development, don’t delay. Contact your pediatrician or search for EI services in your area. You can also search our database of SLPs in the San Diego area who may be able to help.

Cocoa Berry
Author: Cocoa Berry