Early Intervention Therapy: What is it and Why Does it Matter?

At its most basic, early intervention services are therapy services that occur before children reach school age and target learning during the most important developmental period of a child’s life (birth to age 3). Early intervention can take many forms and may include everything from ABA therapy, which helps to address behavioral challenges and build communication/pre-academic skills, to occupational therapy which can help with skills like walking, writing, or hand-eye coordination (think throwing or catching a ball).

Young Child Painting
Photo By Kelly Sikkema

Many children with developmental delays and/or behavior concerns are not identified early enough. This can lead to significant delays and missed opportunities. Early intervention is crucial to making a difference in the development of children on the Autism Spectrum.

Early intervention programs target basic skills that children typically learn within the first two years of life, like physical skills, communication skills, social skills, and emotional skills. It can also include services like family training which helps caregivers understand behaviors and how to teach skills outside of the therapy center.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) says that children under the age of three years old who are identified as at risk of having developmental delays may be eligible for services provided through early intervention systems in the child’s area. 

Additionally, treatment for specific symptoms often does not need to wait for a formal ASD diagnosis. For example, a child with language delays could start receiving speech therapy before their formal diagnosis, with early intervention services. This is often dependent on a family’s insurance coverage and families should review their benefits prior to starting services.

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