Early Start

With An Early Start… We Can Help

Over 50 years of medical and educational research, plus the personal experience of families, teachers, and developmental specialists across the country, show that family-centered interventions during the first three years of a child’s life – sometimes starting even before a newborn infant with special needs comes home from the hospital – can make a profound difference in a child’s future.

Starting with a partnership between parents and professionals at this early stage helps the child, family, and society as a whole. Early intervention services delivered within the context of the family can improve both developmental and educational gains; reduce the future costs of special education, rehabilitation, and health care needs; reduce feelings of isolation, stress, and frustration that families may experience; and help children with disabilities grow up to become productive, independent individuals. The earlier children with or at risk of disabilities receive assistance and the sooner their families receive support towards their children’s development, the farther they will go in life.

How To Begin

With the very first phone call for early intervention services, you can begin to get information and resources to answer your questions.

You know your child’s abilities and frustrations. Yet, you may not have the information you need to effectively assist your child’s growth and development. By working closely with families, early intervention professionals can help parents address their concerns, identify needs and resources to meet those needs and set a course of action.

The first step is to have a child referred for evaluation and assessment. A child can be referred directly to an Early Start program by the family, or the child’s physician or another professional can make the referral. Through local education agencies or a regional center, evaluation services are available to children with special needs who may be eligible for Early Start services. During the assessment process, a child’s motor skills, communication development, learning skills, social interaction, and emotional development are evaluated.

Once the evaluation and assessment process is complete and a child is determined eligible for Early Start services, an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is developed for the child and family. By working closely with the family, early intervention professionals ensure that both services and community supports, including parent-to-parent resources, are brought together to meet each child’s unique needs and the needs of their family to support the child’s development.

Accessing Services

Early intervention services under Early Start are provided by regional centers and local education agencies throughout California and include: assistive technology – psychological services – audiology (hearing) services – training and counseling – service coordination – some health services – social work services – some medical services – special instruction – nursing – speech and language services – nutrition counseling – occupational therapy – vision services – physical therapy – and others as needed.

In California, Early Intervention services are available throughout the state. Call your health care provider, community health clinic, your local regional center, or 800-515-2229 for Early Intervention services in your area. Also, visit the Early Start Home Page of the Department of Developmental Services.

Eligible Children

Eligible children include those infants and toddlers (birth through 36 months) who:

– Have a significant delay in at least one area of development

– Have an established risk condition with a known probability of causing disability or delay

– Are at “high risk” of experiencing developmental delays or disability due to a combination of biomedical risk factors, or

– Have a severe vision, hearing, or orthopedic condition (solely low incidence)

Special Links

The National Center On Birth Defects And Developmental Disabilities has a website titled: Learn The Signs. Act Early. They stress that it’s time to change how we view a child’s growth. Do you know all the ways you should measure your child’s growth? We naturally think of height and weight, but from birth to 5 years, your child should reach milestones in how he plays, learns, speaks and acts. A delay in any of these areas could be a sign of a developmental problem, even autism. The good news is, the earlier it’s recognized the more you can do to help your child reach his or her full potential.

The following documents are available here and on the Learn The Signs. Act Early website:

Informational Card

Growth Chart

Developmental Screening Fact Sheet

Autism Spectrum Disorders Fact Sheet

Cerebral Palsy Fact Sheet

Intellectual Disability Fact Sheet

Vision Loss Fact Sheet

Hearing Loss Fact Sheet

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

3 Months

7 Months

1 Year

2 Years

3 Years

4 Years

5 Years

Resources Fact Sheet