Early intervention provides services that support children from birth to age three who have, or are at risk for, a developmental delay or disability. Early intervention is highly effective at helping children learn new skills and overcome challenges.
When is a child eligible for early intervention services?
By law, parents and caregivers in California can request early intervention services if their child meets the following eligibility criteria:
- Developmental delays: When an infant or toddler has a developmental delay of at least 33 percent in areas such as thinking, motor skills, speech or social development.
- At risk for developmental delay or disability: When a child has experienced something that could result in a developmental delay, such as premature birth or birth trauma.
- Developmental disability: The child has been diagnosed with a disability such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or autism, even if they are not showing any signs of delay.
What skills does early intervention focus on?
Children receive early intervention services to build skills in a variety of developmental areas targeting a child’s individual needs. Early intervention emphasizes five skill areas:
- Physical: Crawling, sitting, walking, drawing
- Cognitive: Thinking, learning or solving problems
- Communication: Listening and understanding, talking
- Self-help: Eating, dressing or using the toilet
- Social/emotional: Sharing, playing with others
How to access early intervention
In California, any parent or guardian with a concern can request a screening for services through the Regional Center Early Start Intake and Family Resource Center. The regional center in your geographic area will evaluate the child to determine their eligibility for early intervention services. A referral from a professional is not needed.
The regional center in your geographic area will evaluate the child to determine their eligibility for early intervention services. A referral from a professional is not needed.
Within 45 days, the regional center will:
- Assign a coordinator to facilitate an evaluation and assessment
- Develop an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) if the child is eligible for services
- Identify the services the child needs and refer you to some service provider/s
What early intervention services are available to children?
The regional center or a child's insurance should cover the early intervention services needed. There are a number of different services and service providers, including the UCLA Intervention Program. Depending on the child’s needs, he or she may receive the following:
- Center-Based Program: A center-based program is a specialized therapeutic classroom or parent-and-me program where children learn, practice, and reinforce skills in a child-friendly, stimulating environment. Therapists and specialty trained staff support each child's individual needs, as well as help parents navigate services, equipment, and transition to the school district at age 3.
- Occupational therapy (OT): OT services help children learn through everyday experiences and interactions to improve daily living, such as drawing with a crayon and holding a fork. Some can also provide feeding therapy.
- Physical therapy (PT): PT services help with gross motor skill development, such as learning to crawl, sit, or walk.
- Hearing services: Audiology services can help determine if a child has a hearing impairment and identify necessary supports such as hearing aids.
- Speech and language care: Speech-language therapy can help kids communicate and express their thoughts. It can also help them better understand what others are saying to them.
- Vision care: Vision impairment can contribute to developmental delays. An evaluation may determine that a child needs vision support.
- Equipment: Specialized seating, gait trainer/walkers, standers, communication devices, etc.
What is the UCLA Intervention Program?
The UCLA Intervention Program is an early intervention (birth-36 months) center-based program that offers a specialized therapeutic Toddler Classroom and parent-and-me Infant Program that promote each child's growth in all developmental areas. The specially trained teachers and therapists use a play-based approach to help young children learn in a motivating and stimulating specialized environment. The program emphasizes what children can do, rather than what they cannot do and provides ongoing support and guidance to each family based on their child's unique needs. Individual Physical and Occupational Therapy services are also available.
The focus areas for the UCLA Intervention Program include:
- Creativity: Kids have fun through exploration and experimentation.
- Cognition and language: Children practice communication, attention to task, and learn important concepts like body parts, shapes, or colors.
- Social/emotional: Children learn to be aware of themselves and others through play. Activities build self-esteem and confidence.
- Motor skills: Children practice both gross and fine motor skills. There are also opportunities for a wide array of sensory experiences including feeding.