What every caring adult needs to know about Early Intervention.

A guide to reaching children early with services essential to their growth and development

Tips for Talking to Parents

One of your most difficult tasks may be explaining your concerns about a child's development to his or her parent(s). It is important to keep in mind that you and the family share an ongoing commitment to the best interests of the child.

  1. Set a time to talk. This should be a time when you will not be interrupted. Although the conversation can take place by phone, it may be more comfortable in person. Establish early in the conversation that you and the family are on the same team - each of you wants what is best for the child.
  2. Encourage the family to speak with their health care or child care professional and to call the Early Intervention Central Directory/Child Find number. A family physician, pediatrician or other health or child care professional can offer advice and refer a child for screening.
  3. Reassure them. If a developmental delay is identified, a family needs to know that early intervention services are the first step in helping their child reach his or her potential.

Early Intervention At a Glance

Illinois' Early Intervention Service System serves children under 36 months of age with disabilities or developmental delays, or who are at risk of substantial delays.

Child and Family Connections agencies arrange for developmental evaluations and assessments. They provide service coordination and develop service plans at no cost to families.

Families of eligible children receive Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSP) listing services the child and family are entitled to receive. Families are linked to a large network of skilled providers.

Families are charged fees (based on ability to pay) for some ongoing early intervention services, and the family's health insurance may be billed for the cost of services.

Under federal law, eligible families have a right to early identification, timely referral and assessment, an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), and early intervention services as determined by the IFSP process. Child and Family Connection must complete the evaluation and IFSP within 45 days.

A Cause For Concern

As someone who cares about children, you know that no two children are exactly the same-- each one is unique.

Most differences are nothing to worry about, but in some children the differences can signal a special need. If you are close to a child, you may be the first person to notice warning signs.

The earlier a delay or disability is identified, the better the chance is that intervention services can help a child reach his or her potential.

Early Intervention Makes a Difference

Illinois has a statewide, family-centered service system to find and help children who are eligible for early intervention services as defined in Part C of the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Regional Child and Family Connection agencies arrange for evaluations and assessments for children under three. Evaluations and assessments are provided at no cost to families.

Families with eligible children receive an Individualized Family Service Plan, which lists the services and supports that must be made available to the family.

Children eligible for Early Intervention services are experiencing delays in at least one of these areas:

  • cognitive development;
  • physical development, including vision and hearing;
  • language and speech development;
  • psychosocial development; or
  • self-help skills.

Children diagnosed with a physical or mental condition with a high probability of resulting in developmental delays or with certain family circumstances which put them at risk of substantial delays are also eligible.

Payment for Services

Early Intervention services are paid for with a combination of government and family resources. The cost of some services are paid by the program and provided to families at no cost. These include evaluation, assessment, development of a service plan, and service coordination. Ongoing Early Intervention services are paid for by the family's health insurance, when appropriate, government insurance (Medicaid/KidCare), and program funds. Families contribute to the cost of services by paying fees based on a sliding scale.

Early Intervention Services:

  • Assistive technology devices and services
  • Audiology, Aural rehabilitation and other related services
  • Developmental therapy
  • Family training
  • Health consultation
  • Medical diagnostic services (evaluation purposes only)
  • Nursing
  • Nutrition
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Psychological and other counseling services
  • Service coordination
  • Social work and other counseling services
  • Speech/language therapy
  • Transportation to services
  • Vision

Your Role in Early Intervention

When you introduce parents to the family-centered Early Intervention Services System, they join a community of support--from parents already in the system to the service providers who work with the family to meet the child's needs.

The Early Intervention law was passed to assure that eligible children get the earliest possible start on overcoming developmental problems. Health care providers, child care providers, and other professionals who identify a child with a disability or possible developmental delay to refer that child for services right away. The law in Illinois says referrals must be made within two working days.

For the name of the Child and Family Connection agency nearest you, call 1-800-323-4769 (Voice/TTY).

Department of Human Services Early Intervention for Customers section

For more information or to refer families to the Illinois Early Intervention Services System, call 1-800-323-4769 (Voice/TTY)

The Sooner We Start, The Farther They'll Go

Look What I Can Do

Early Intervention For Young Children With Developmental Delays

Department of Human Services Early Intervention about DHS section.

To order Public Awareness materials call 1-800-851-6197.