What is Early Childhood Intervention?

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Disability Rights Texas Handout

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What is ECI?

ECI services are services to help promote the development and growth of children age 0-3 with developmental disabilities and other mental and physical disabilities. ECI services are delivered by a network of local ECI providers across the state that have been selected by the Health and Human Services Commission. Local providers and HHSC operate under the requirements of a federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under IDEA, the federal government gives money to states to establish and maintain an ECI system available in all communities.

ECI services are for infants and toddlers under the age of three. ECI services are individualized so they might focus on speech and communications needs for one child and on social and behavioral needs for another. In addition, under the ECI system there is service coordination to help link families to other agencies and services, so a child and family have the chance to flourish as soon as possible.

For more information about ECI services and providers and how to get connected to and served by them, see the resources listed at the end of this handout.

Who is eligible for ECI?

ECI serves children from birth to 36 months with a disability or developmental delay. To be eligible your child must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Medically Diagnosed Condition
  • Auditory or Visual Impairment
  • Developmental Delay

If you are unsure if your child is meeting the developmental milestones for their age, the CDC website has information to help you. You do not need a doctor referral to be eligible for ECI services.

How are services provided?

ECI services are provided through local programs, organizations, and hospitals (like Easter seals or Any Baby Can). ECI services are developed based on the needs of each child and family. These services are provided in the home and in the community, which would include child care facilities, parks, libraries, or other community settings. Your family will be connected with a service coordinator who will help you access and receive the services you need to support your child’s development.

In addition to the service coordinator, your family and child will work with a team of licensed providers who will evaluate your child and will plan and provide services. The team of professionals may include:

  • Physical and occupational therapist
  • Speech and language pathologist
  • Registered nurses
  • Early intervention specialist
  • Counselors

ECI providers will work with your family to help your child meet developmental goals such as learning to walk, communicating with their families, or preparing for success in elementary school.

What are examples of services ECI provides?

  • Family training, counseling, and home visits
  • Special instruction
  • Speech-language pathology and audiology services, and sign language
  • Occupational and physical therapy
  • Psychological services
  • Service coordination services
  • Social work services
  • Assistive technology devices and assistive technology services
  • Transportation and related costs that are necessary to enable an infant or toddler and the infant’s or toddler’s family to receive another service described above

What are the costs for ECI services?

The evaluation and assessment, case management, case plan development, and translation and interpreter services are provided to your family and child at no cost. The amount your family and child will pay for the remainder of services is determined using a sliding-fee scale and is based on family size and income. However, if your family is unable to pay, all of the services must be provided with no charge.

How do I get my child started?

If you suspect your infant or toddler (age 0-3) has a developmental delay or disability, you should start by locating the ECI program in your area.

Search for your local ECI program on the Texas HHSC website.

Once you have located the ECI program, you should make contact with them in order to begin the evaluation process. The ECI program should conduct evaluations as soon as possible and conduct a meeting with your family to discuss your child’s services. Your child’s service plan with the ECI provider should be created and signed within 45 days of the referral.

What happens after I contact my local ECI provider?

Once the ECI provider receives your call (referral), they will assign an initial service coordinator to your family and meet with you to discuss your concerns and the scope of ECI services. You should also receive a copy of the HHSC ECI Parent Handbook. After collecting information on your child, the ECI provider should discuss the evaluation and assessment process.

What is the evaluation and assessment process?

After you have met with the ECI provider for the first time, they will begin evaluating your child to determine eligibility for services (see eligibility requirements above). The ECI provider must conduct a comprehensive needs assessment. This evaluation is conducted by a developmental professional and is comprised of different components including:

  • An interview with your family in which the professional gathers information such as strengths and challenges of your child, family history, concerns, priorities and resources parent and child have
  • Observations of your child’s interactions with others
  • Assessments in all developmental areas, such as hearing, vision, communication, etc.
  • A family-directed assessment to identify your family’s resources, priorities, and concerns

If the assessment determines your child is eligible for ECI services, the ECI provider should develop an Individualized Family Service Plan.

What is an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)?

An IFSP is the roadmap for your child’s services and your family’s involvement with ECI services. It should clearly lay out the services your child is going to receive and what results you hope to achieve. The IFSP should contain things like:

  • A statement of your child’s levels of development;
  • A statement of your family’s priorities and concerns;
  • A statement of the measurable results or outcomes expected to be achieved, specific ECI services (including the frequency, intensity, and method of delivering services);
  • A statement of natural environments in which ECI services will be provided;
  • The projected dates for initiation of services and anticipated length, duration and frequency of services;
  • Identification of your service coordinator; and
  • The steps taken to support the transition of your child to preschool or other appropriate services

The IFSP should be developed with your input and the following people should be present at the IFSP meeting:

  • Two qualified professionals from any two specialty areas
  • The IFSP service coordinator
  • The licensed medical professional team member (physician, nurse, therapist, counselor, etc.)
  • Family members, as requested by you
  • Any individual your family wants involved
  • Any professional who has conducted evaluations or assessments
  • If your child is being served by multiple agencies, at least one person per agency must be a member of the IFSP team

When should the IFSP be developed?

The IFSP should be developed no more than 45 days after your initial contact with the ECI provider.

What are my rights in the IFSP process?

As a parent you have the right to:

  • Be present and participate in the development of the IFSP
  • Have decisions about ECI services made on the individualized needs of your child and family
  • Receive a full explanation of the IFSP
  • Consent to some, but not all, ECI services
  • Receive all IFSP services for which you give consent
  • Request an administrative hearing or file a complaint if you do not agree with the other IFSP team members
  • Indicate disagreement in writing with a part of the IFSP, even though you consent to ECI services
  • Have the IFSP written in your native language
  • To receive a copy of the IFSP

What do I do if my child is denied services or is wait-listed?

Follow the guidance in our Requesting an ECI Investigation or Hearing Handout or contact Disability Rights Texas for assistance at 1-800-252-9108.

What happens after ECI services have ended at age three?

ECI services will end when your child turns 3. Your family and the ECI team should decide on the next steps well before. Your child may transition to Head Start, a child care center, or transition to public school. If your child is potentially eligible for special education services, the ECI provider is required to notify your local school unless you specifically opt out.

You and your ECI team should start these transition discussions no later than 3 months prior to your child’s third birthday.

See our handout on ECI transition for more detailed information.

What to do if your transition from ECI to special education is not initiated or you are denied services?

Contact Disability Rights Texas for assistance at 1-800-252-9108.


Created: November 20, 2020
Publication Code: ED26

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Disclaimer: Disability Rights Texas strives to update its materials on an annual basis, and this handout is based upon the law at the time it was written. The law changes frequently and is subject to various interpretations by different courts. Future changes in the law may make some information in this handout inaccurate.

The handout is not intended to and does not replace an attorney’s advice or assistance based on your particular situation.

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