Early childhood intervention is a support and educational system for very young children (aged birth to six years) who have been victims of, or who are at high risk for child abuse and neglect as well as children who have developmental delays or disabilities. Some states and regions have chosen to focus these services on children with developmental disabilities or delays, but Early Childhood Intervention is not limited to children with these disabilities. Early childhood intervention services sometimes are referred to by its initials: ECI.
The mission of Early Childhood Intervention is to assure that families who have at-risk children in this age range receive resources and supports that assist them in maximizing their child’s physical, cognitive, and social/emotional development while respecting the diversity of families and communities.
Early intervention is a system of coordinated services that promotes the child’s age-appropriate growth and development and supports families during the critical early years.
Early intervention services that is supported within a family can aid with the below through the services of physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Some examples include:
Help prevent child abuse and neglect
Mitigate the effects of abuse and neglect
Improve parenting skills
Improve the child’s developmental, social, 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;
Help alleviate and reduce behaviours by using positive behaviour strategies and interventions; and
Help children with disabilities grow up to become productive, independent individuals.
Assistance with technological devices, counseling, and family training.
The earlier children at high risk for abuse or neglect, of children with or at risk of disabilities receive assistance and the sooner their families receive support towards their child’s development, the farther they will go in life.
Every child is unique- growing and developing at his or her rate. Most of the time differences between children of the same age are nothing to worry about. But for one child in 10, the differences can be related to a developmental delay. The sooner these delays are identified, the quicker children may be able to catch up to their peers.
Another reason that identifying these delays early is important is the most critical time for brain development is before the age of three. The brain develops in an experience-dependent process. If certain experiences are not triggered, the pathways in the brain relating to this experience will not be activated. If these pathways are not activated, they will be eliminated.
There is no debate or doubt: early intervention is your childs best hope for the future. Early attention to improving the core behavioral symptoms of autism will give your child and the rest of the family several important benefits that you will not gain if you take a wait-and-see approach until your child enters school at age four or five.
A good early intervention program has at least four benefits:
It will provide your child with instruction that will build on his or her strengths to teach new skills, improve behaviours, and remediate areas of weakness.
It will provide you with information that will help you better understand your childs behaviour and needs.
It will offer resources, support, and training that will enable you to work and play with your child more effectively.
It will improve the outcome for your child. For these reasons, an intervention program for your child should be implemented as soon as possible after he or she receives a diagnosis.
However, as you probably know by now, it can be very challenging to teach young children with autism. They have a unique profile of strengths and needs and require intervention services and teaching approaches that are sensitive to these needs. Thats why strategies that worked for teaching your other children to remain seated at the dinner table, to play appropriately with a toy, or to say words simply dont work as well for your child with autism. In the same way, intervention programs that are generic rather than autism specialized are less likely to be effective for your child. Thats why as you begin your exploration of early intervention, you must keep in mind that not all interventions are equal.