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Early Childhood Intervention
What is ECI?
by Holly Cooper


Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) provides services to families that have infants or toddlers (children younger than 3 years) with qualifying disabilities or developmental delays. Most ECI services are provided at home, but services can be offered in other settings. An important outcome of ECI is that families receiving services feel they know how to support their children’s development both at home and in their communities. Community settings can include early care and education classrooms, libraries, and neighborhood parks and playgrounds.

ECI services are intended to support the child and family, while informing community agents, so the child can fully participate in the community experience. What this looks like will be different for every child because every child has different needs. The plan to participate should be addressed on a regular basis and individualized to meet the needs of the child and the expectations of the family. ECI families want their children to participate in community settings because learning new skills in other settings helps their children to
learn skills that are useful for everyday life,
interact with other children, who model the desired skills,
practice new skills,
experience a sense of belonging,
develop social skills,
be motivated to try new things, and
gain confidence in their abilities.


How does ECI fit into your program?
Parents may ask that some ECI services be provided in their child’s early care and education classroom. ECI services in this setting are focused on coordinating learning activities with the child’s teachers to ensure the ECI child is fully participating in class activities. The early intervention specialist offers classroom teachers guidance in adapting activities, changing the physical environment, and supporting peer relationships to maximize child growth and development across domains.

ECI also may work with parents, teachers, and caregivers to restructure learning goals into smaller developmental steps to ensure appropriate skill development. This helps parents and teachers set realistic expectations for the child and recognize and applaud the child’s accomplishments. The ECI provider’s role is not to replace communication between the family and child care providers but to offer strategies that support the child’s development both at home and in the early care and education setting.


Talk with parents for better understanding
Supportive and reflective relationships with families are guided by understanding the family’s preferences and expectations. You can use questions like these in conversations with families to learn more.
What experiences do you think will most benefit your child? If family members aren’t sure, ask if they are open to exploring ideas; share what you have observed.
Which activities seem to give the most pleasure to your child? This will help you know more about the child’s interests and preferences.
What do you see as your child’s strengths?
What future challenges do you anticipate? Share information about how you minimize the challenges to full classroom participation.
What are your immediate and long-term goals and expectations?
How can we best continue to share information? Agree on a timeframe and mechanism (notes, e-mail, or a periodic portfolio review, for example) to sustain meaningful communicaton.