Early intervention is a system of services that helps babies and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities. Early intervention focuses on helping eligible babies and toddlers learn the basic and brand-new skills that typically develop during the first three years of life.
Sometimes it is known from the moment a child is born that early intervention services will be essential in helping the child grow and develop. Often this is so for children who are diagnosed at birth with a specific condition or who experience significant prematurity, very low birth weight, illness, or surgery soon after being born. Even before heading home from the hospital, this child’s parents may be given a referral to their local early intervention office.
Some children have a relatively routine entry into the world, but may develop more slowly than others, experience setbacks, or develop in ways that seem very different from other children. For these children, a visit with a pediatrician or pediatric specialist may refer a family for early intervention services. However a child comes to be referred, assessed, and determined eligible—early intervention services provide vital support so that children with developmental needs can thrive and grow. Eligible children can receive early intervention services from birth through the third birthday.
Early Intervention falls under Part C of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).
First Steps is Missouri’s Early Intervention system that provides services to families with children, birth to three years of age, with disabilities or developmental delays. The program is designed to meet the needs of families related to enhancing their child’s development, learning, and participation in family and community life.