Early Intervention PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 09 October 2006 07:49


Early Intervention provides both assessment and treatment services for children below the age of 3 years, who demonstrate, or are at-risk for demonstrating, a developmental delay.   Early Intervention may center on the child and/or entire family. Early Intervention programs may be center-based, home-based, hospital-based, or occur in more than one environment. Intervening during this critical period of development increases the potential that a child may not need special services in the future.


The Importance of Early Intervention


The goal of Early Intervention is to enhance the child's development, provide family support, and to maximize the child's and family's benefit to society.  Child development research has established that the rate at which individuals learn is highest before the age of six and that development is most rapid in the preschool years.  If a solid foundation is not laid in this early learning period, a child may have difficulty learning a particular skill at a later time. Early intervention provides this foundation.  In addition, these services support the parents by providing ongoing training and information needed to teach or generalize their child's skills. The child's increased developmental and educational gains results in a decreased dependence upon special services as the child ages.   


Early Intervention Saves Money


Current research has focused on the long-term benefits of early intervention services.  Successful services require professionals, who are well-qualified, and often involve intensive therapy which may require a large investment initially. However, the goal is to not only prevent further delays but to close the gap that exists between the child's chronological age and their developmental age.  Because of the focus on developmental gains, services are often needed long enough to "catch the child up" and transition them into a traditional classroom setting with minimal or no assistance.  Several research studies have examined the long-term savings as a result of Early Intervention.


  • Perry Preschool Project (Schweinhart and Weikart, 1980):  Schools that invested about $3,000 for 1 year of preschool education for a child, immediately begin to recover their investment through savings in special education services. Benefits included $668 from the mother's released time while the child attended preschool; $3,353 saved by the public schools because children with preschool education had fewer years in grades; and $10,798 in projected lifetime earnings for the child.


  • Wood (1981) calculated the total cumulative costs to age 18 of special education services to child beginning intervention at: (a) birth ; (b) age 2; (c) age 6; and (d) at age 6 with no eventual movement to regular education. She found that the total costs were actually less if begun at birth! Total cost of special services begun at birth was $37,273 and total cost if begun at age 6 was between $46,816 and $53,340. The cost is less when intervention is earlier because of the remediation and prevention of developmental problems which would have required special services later in life.


  • A 3-year follow-up in Tennessee showed that for every dollar spent on early treatment, $7.00 in savings was realized within 36 months. This savings resulted from deferral or special class placement and institutionalization of severe behavior disordered children (Snider, Sullivan, and Manning, 1974).


  • A recent evaluation of Colorado's state-wide early intervention services reports a cost savings of $4.00 for every dollar spent within a 3-year period (McNulty, Smith, and Soper, 1983).
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