Does Early Intervention actually help?

Early Intervention is centered on looking at infant & toddler development with parents, setting appropriate goals, and making a plan to meet those goals, all for the purpose of helping children succeed in lessening or closing the gap with developmental milestones. So the question is- Does Early Intervention actually lead to success? Is it worth the putting in the effort to make the referral? Is it worth the time you spend receiving services? I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe whole-heartedly in Early Intervention. However, let me share some research so you can see what a powerful service Early Intervention truly is-

  • Early Intervention research was performed on a group of mentally disabled children in 1958. This research showed that "the development of sound intelligence depends on appropriate stimulation in the environment." (Cowdery & Allen, 2009, p. 26). This piece of research lead to the formation of Head Start, but also demonstrated the power interventions can have on children with the most significant disabilities.
  • Approximately one-fifth of all infants born annually are at risk for developmental disabilities (Haber, 1991). Of these, approximately one-fourth will manifest significant delays by age 5.
  • Neural circuits, which create the foundation for learning, behavior and health, are most flexible or “plastic” during the first three years of life. Over time, they become increasingly difficult to change. The brain is strengthened by positive early experiences, especially stable relationships with caring and responsive adults, safe and supportive environments, and appropriate nutrition. High quality early intervention services can change a child’s developmental trajectory and improve outcomes for children, families, and communities. ("The Importace Of Early Intervention For Infants And Toddlers With Disabilities And Their Families")
  • Early identification of children with developmental disabilities leads to an effective therapy of conditions for which definitive treatment is available. However, even in those instances in which the condition cannot be fully reversed, early intervention improves children's outcomes and enables families to develop the strategies and obtain the resources for successful family functioning" (Committee on Children with Disabilities, 1994, page 863). 
  • “Early Intervention for a broad spectrum of communication disorders affecting young children can be very effective in eliminating those disorders or at least mitigating their impact on a child’s later speech and language development” (p. 403). 
  • 71% - 76% of children receiving Early Intervention services demonstrated improvement across performance areas, including social relationships, reasoning, problem solving, feeding, dressing, and other self-care.
  • 52% -64% of children receiving Early Intervention met developmental age expectations at age 3.
  • 90% of parents reported that Early Intervention service had improved their ability to help their children develop and learn.
  • Early Intervention provides different sources of social support to the family, which reduces the impact of stress on the family and enhances parent-child interaction and consequently child development. 
  • Well-designed early childhood interventions have been found to generate a return to society ranging from $1.80 to $17.07 for each dollar spent on the program.

Allen, E.K., Cowdery, G.E. (2009). The Exceptional Child: inclusion in early childhood education. United States of America: Thompson Delmar Learning

Derrington, T., Shapiro, B. & Smith, B. (1999). The effectiveness of Early Intervention Services. Unpublished manuscript. 

"The Important Of Early Intervention For Infants And Toddlers With Disabilities And Their Families". NECTAC. N.p., 2011. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.

Case-Smith, J. (2013). From the Desk of the Great Editor- Systematic reviews of the effectiveness of interventions used in occupational therapy early childhood services. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67, 379-382.

"Proven Benefits Of Early Childhood Interventions | RAND". N.p., 2016. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

How do I know if my child will qualify?

If you were to call me up and ask me if your child would qualify for Early Intervention services (Which you are more than welcome to do!), here are the questions I'd ask you:

  1. What are your concerns? God has given parents some incredible intuition. Often, we know in our gut that there is something to be concerned about. I know with my kids, my mom knew with my sister & me, and my grandma knew with my mom & aunt.
  2. How old is your child and what skills is he or she demonstrating? At this point, I can direct you to yesterdays post on The Blog to address whether your child is developing normally, or if we are seeing some red flags.
  3. Have you spoken with your doctor? Sometimes parents have already been to a doctor (or lots of doctors) and the child has a diagnosis such as Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, etc.  BabyNet has a list of "Established Risk Conditions." If your child has been professionally diagnosed with any condition on this list, he or she is already eligible for BabyNet services based on "established risk." We just need to make the referral!
  4. Would you like help making a referral? There is simply no way I can guarantee that your child will qualify for Early Intervention based on signs of a developmental delay. However, I am more than happy to assist in making the referral. Where to send a referral changes, depending on the age of your child.
    • Birth - 3: These children are referred to BabyNet. The telephone number is 1-877-621-0865. You will also complete a Referral Form. 
    • Ages 3 - 6: Older children are referred to DDSN (Department of Disabilities and Special Needs). The telephone number is 1-800-289-7012.

BabyNet & DDSN are the two state agencies in South Carolina for Early Intervention. Each county has a Local DSN (Department of Special Needs) Board who provides Early Intervention services as well as private providers. Tiny Feet Early Intervention is one of those private providers.

In a Nutshell--- How do children qualify for Early Intervention services?

  • Through a diagnosis (Established Risk)
  • Through an assessment that finds your child has a developmental delay

How do I know if my child is delayed?

The first thing that should be mentioned is that all children develop differently. While one child learns to walk at 9 months, another may not be walking until 13 months. Even our bi-annual assessment has a range shown for each skill (i.e. Names one or two familiar objects, 13-18 months). Children develop on their own timeline, and often this is within the normal range. However, the concern arises when there is a more significant delay in the acquiring of skills, which we call "red flags." Spotting concerns sooner rather than later is key if your child does have a true developmental delay.

My goal is to give you a resource of when skills should  acquired. If your child is not developing within these "normal" time-spans, you can discuss concerns with your pediatrician. Sometimes doctors recommend waiting to see if skills emerge on their own. However, as a parent you can refer your child for Early Intervention services on your own if you continue to have concerns. Please see our Referral page or feel free to give us a call! We would be more than happy to help you get connected and assist in making the referral! 

Common signs of Development Delay in Infants & Children:

Language/Communication Skills (Speech)

  • 3-4 Months: Does not respond to loud noises
  • 4 Months: Begins babbling but does not try to imitate sounds
  • 7 Months: Does not respond to sounds
  • 1 Year: Does not use any single words (like "mama")
  • 2 Years: Cannot speak at least 15 words, does not use two-word phrases without repetition, only imitates speech, does not use speech to communicate more than immediate needs

Gross Motor Skills

  • 4 Months: Does not support his or her head well, does not push down with legs when his or her feet are place on a firm surface 
  • 5 Months: Doesn't roll over in either direction
  • 6 Months: Cannot sit up without help
  • 7 Months: Stiff or very floppy muscles, flops his or her head when pulled into a sitting position, does not bear weight on his or her legs when you pull him or her up to a standing position
  • 1 Year: Does not crawl, drags on side of his or her body while crawling, cannot stand when supported
  • 18 Months: Cannot walk
  • 2 Years: Does not develop a heel-to-toe walking pattern or only walks on toes, cannot push a wheeled toy

Fine Motor Skills

  • 3-4 Months: Does not reach for, grasp, or hold objects, does not support his/her head well
  • 7 Months: Reaches with one hand and does not actively reach for objects, has trouble getting objects into his or her mouth

Social/Emotional Skills- How a child interacts with other children and adults

  • 3 Months: Does not smile at people, does not pay attention to new faces, or seems frightened by them
  • 5 Months: Cannot be comforted at night, does not smile without prompting
  • 6 Months: Does not squeal or laugh
  • 7 Months: Refuses to cuddle, shows no affections for parents or caregivers, shows no enjoyment around people
  • 8 Months: Shows no interest in games of peek-a-boo
  • 9 Months: Shows no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or facial expressions
  • 1 Year: Shows no back-and-forth gestures, such as waving, reaching, or pointing

Cognition Skills- Thinking

  • 1 Year: Does not search for objects that are hidden while he or she watches, does not use gestures (i.e. waving), does not point to objects or pictures
  • 2 Years: Does not know the function of common objects (i.e. hairbrush, telephone, spoon), does not follow simple instructions, does not imitate actions or words



Studies show that 10-15% of children under age 3 had a developmental delay. Your child may have a delay in one, two, or all of these areas. Early Intervention can make a huge difference for children with developmental delays. One study found that only 3% of kids were getting appropriate attention.

If you have concerns about your child's development, please speak up! Follow your instincts. At Tiny Feet Early Intervention, we understand that you are the expert on your child!


Boyle CA, et al. 2011. Trends in the Prevalence of Developmental Disabilities in US Children, 1997-2008. Pediatrics 127(6):1034- 42

AndrewG1999. "Know If Your Baby Is Developing Normally." WikiHow. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2016

"Recognizing Developmental Delays in Children." WebMD. Ed. Smitha Bhandari. N.p., 31 May 2016. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.