Why Early Intervention in Education Is Important for Children with Developmental Disabilities

Early learning intervention services provide support for families with children who have developmental disabilities or delays. Parents of children with disabilities or delays can contact a state agency, ask for an evaluation, and receive subsidized services if the children qualify.

The purpose of early learning intervention is to minimize children’s chances of being behind in their educational potential as they enter preschool or elementary school. State and local agencies provide early intervention services, often arranged through the local school system. In most cases, early intervention services cover children from birth to age three.

Federal Law Requires Early Intervention

The United States Department of Education’s Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities includes the Grants for Infants and Families Program as Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (NECTAC) explains that the program exists “to enhance the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities, minimize potential developmental delay, and reduce educational costs … by minimizing the need for special education services as children with disabilities reach school age.” Partnerships between state agencies and programs for health, education, human services, and developmental disabilities provide early learning intervention services to infants and toddlers.

Early Intervention Produces Successful Learners

According to the NECTAC, decades of research have shown that children’s earliest experiences play a critical role in brain development. They share Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child’s research summary, making the case for intervening early:

  • Neural circuits create the foundation for learning, behavior, and health. They are most flexible or “plastic” during the first three years of life and then become increasingly difficult to change.
  • Positive early experiences—especially in the form of stable relationships with caring and responsive adults, safe and supportive environments, and nutrition—strengthen the brain.
  • Cognitive and language skills develop upon a foundation of early social and emotional development and physical health.
  • High-quality early intervention services positively alter a child’s developmental trajectory and improve outcomes for children, families, and communities.
  • Intervention is more likely to be effective and less costly when it is provided earlier in life.

When children with developmental delays or who are at risk for developmental delays receive early learning intervention services, their health, language and communication, cognitive development, and social and emotional development improve. The Listening and Spoken Language Knowledge Center explains: “In the most basic terms, a child’s brain is programmed to learn fundamental language skills during the first six years of life, the first three years being the most critical. After age six, it is increasingly difficult for the human brain to acquire language and speech skills.” Communication, through reading and speech, is an integral part of successful learning—so the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome.

Early Learning Programs

Even if your children do not have developmental disabilities or delays, you should enhance their early learning and development because early learning programs engage and prepare young children for future success. K12’s EmbarK12 for Preschool Learners and Noodleverse Language Arts for Grades K–3 are two programs that prepare children to be successful learners. For more information, explore K12.com or sign up to receive free info.

Image via Flickr by Michael @ NW Lens


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