Since 1981, the Texas Early Childhood Intervention program has provided supports and services to over 950,000 Texas children from birth to 36 months with developmental delays, disabilities or a medical diagnosis likely to impact a child's development.
As a parent, you are the most important and consistent person in your child's life. You might have noticed your child is doing things differently or at a different pace from other children. If you have concerns about your child's development, use the ECI Developmental checklist (PDF) to see if your child is on target. ECI will help you get the services you need for your child. To learn more, visit your local ECI program.
What is early intervention?
Early Intervention is the process of identifying and responding to your family's concerns about your child's development. Early intervention works best as the brain is developing. While all infants and toddlers learn at their own pace, some might need extra help to develop certain skills.
Children enrolled in ECI can receive a variety of early intervention services based on your child's needs and what you feel is important to address.
Why is it important to address your concerns early?
From birth to 36 months of age, children are learning how to communicate, explore their world and form relationships. They are also beginning to learn how to take care of themselves, like feeding themselves and showing self-control. Development happens over time by building on previously learned skills. This is why early is best.
Children with delays might learn at a different pace, but like other children their age, they are also constantly learning. ECI services are intended to help you understand how to encourage the natural growth and development that happens in all children and apply that knowledge to what your child needs.
Here are a few facts about brain development:
- A child's brain will reach nearly 90 percent of the weight of an adult's brain by 3 years old.
- In the first few years of life, 700-1,000 new neural connections form every second.
- When we "feed" the brain with learning opportunities, we help lay a foundation for neural pathways (brain cells) that support lifelong learning.
How do I get connected to an ECI program?
Anyone who has a concern about a child's development can make a referral to ECI — a parent, a grandparent, a day care provider, a pediatrician or health care worker. A referral does not have to be made by a professional.
Approximately 55 percent of ECI's referrals come from a physician or health care provider such as a physician assistant, nurse practitioner or audiologist. Families make 24 percent of the referrals.
Typically, a referral is made after a discussion with your child's pediatrician about how they are developing. Sometimes a child might have a medical condition that automatically qualifies them for ECI.
If your child's pediatrician does not connect you with an ECI program, you can find one in your community and self-refer to get help with your questions. To find a local program near you, visit https://citysearch.hhsc.state.tx.us/ or you can call the HHS Office of the Ombudsman at 877-787-8999.
ECI programs sometimes share geographical areas including counties, cities or ZIP codes. If your search for an ECI program shows more than one ECI program, you can choose any one of them for the referral. The ECI program you contact will help connect you to your community ECI program.
When you contact the local program, the ECI provider will explain ECI services, discuss next steps and answer any questions you might have. If you choose to move forward with ECI services, you will be assigned a service coordinator who will assist you during your time in ECI.
How do I find out if my child is eligible for services?
Your child is eligible for services if he/she is under 36 months old, resides in Texas and meets one of ECI's eligibility types, which are:
- A - medically diagnosed condition likely to cause a developmental delay and demonstrate a need for services.
- A developmental delay of 25 percent in one or more areas of development, or a 33 percent if the delay occurs only in the area of communication.
- A vision or hearing impairment as defined by the Texas Education Agency.
When a child is referred for developmental delay, the ECI program administers the Battelle Developmental Inventory-Second Edition — a standardized, norm-referenced tool that evaluates all developmental domain areas including cognitive, social interactions, gross and fine motor skills, adaptive skills and communication. This establishes your child's percent of delay for eligibility.
My child is eligible, what happens next?
ECI uses a team approach when providing services. If your child is found eligible, the next step is to conduct a team meeting to determine a plan of service unique to your child and family. In ECI, this plan is called the Individualized Family Service Plan.
Your child's team includes you, a service coordinator and various ECI providers with expertise in the areas of development that are a concern. ECI recognizes you know your child best, and therefore you are considered an important member of the team.
The team explores you and your child's routines, identifies your child's strengths, and learns what you consider to be the priorities for services. This information is gathered to create the IFSP.
The IFSP is reviewed on a regular scheduled basis, or at the request of any team member, including you. This helps to ensure your plan is always addressing what is most important for your child and family.
Though most ECI services are provided at home, they can be provided in other places where your child goes regularly, such as a day care or other community setting.
How much do ECI services cost?
ECI provides certain services to help you get started in ECI at no direct cost to you.
- Evaluation and assessment
- Case management
- Development of the Individualized Family Service plan
- Translation and interpreter services
You might be asked for permission to bill your insurance.
What can I expect from an early intervention visit?
Watch this video to learn more about early intervention home visits.
How is ECI different from other services?
ECI Family-Centered Model
- Specialized support by a team to teach families and caregivers how to help improve the child's ability to function throughout daily routines.
- Services are provided in environments identified by the family as places where the child typically spends time during normal family routines and using materials found naturally in these settings.
- The focus of the service delivery is on coaching and instructing parents and caregivers so they can carry out the intervention techniques and provide opportunities for the child to learn and progress in his or her environment.
Traditional Children's Services Model
- A medical model that provides discipline-specific, clinical treatment for a developmental issue.
- Services are provided in a location identified by the provider using clinic-centered equipment.
- The focus of the service is treating the skill deficits in the patient to reduce or eliminate impairment.
What happens when my child leaves ECI?
ECI services end when your child turns 3.
Well before that time, the ECI team, including the family, decides on the next steps. Children might transition to public school, preschool, Head Start, child care centers or other community activities and programs, or stay home with their family. For children who need further intervention and services, the goal is a smooth transition with no service gaps.
Your service coordinator will provide you with a copy of "Beyond ECI: Next Steps for Your Child" that explains in detail what options are available when your child leaves the ECI program.