Early Intervention: What Every Teacher Must Know And Be Able to Do

The importance of teachers being able to accurately assess a student who needs early intervention is pivotal no matter if it is for autism, learning disabilities, or just problems with reading. The more severe the problem, the more important early intervention is.  

What Is Early Intervention?

Early intervention is typically defined as services provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that have the goal of helping children catch up or stay on the same level as their peers. The primary focus is on children with developmental/learning delays and issues. This can take the form of, but not limited to, behavioral or attention problems such as attention deficit disorder (ADD)/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and cognitive problems such as autism.

Benefits Of Early Intervention With Autism

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services compiled research from organizations such as the National Research Council Committee on Educational Interventions for Children with Autism that shows a demonstrable correlation between early intervention for children with autism and their long-term health, success, and skills. They cite the importance of intervention during the preschool ages of 2-4 years old which lay the foundation for services and practices that allow those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to not fall behind their peers.

Regarding ASD early intervention, the focus is on the following 5 primary skills:

  1. Physical skills
  2. Thinking skills
  3. Communication skills
  4. Social skills
  5. Emotional skills

It is important to remember that while the above is centered on the benefits of early intervention for children with autism, many, if not most, of these benefits overlap to children with non-ASD delays, problems, and diagnoses. 

The Role Of The Teacher

Arguably, preschool and early elementary (kindergarten-1st grade) teachers play the most important role in early intervention due to being the ones who are most able to identify those who need such services. If the developmental/learning delays are not detected by the parents in the first couple of years of life, then teachers come into the picture and should be on the lookout. While teachers past 1st grade also share responsibility in identifying these students, their role begins to transition more into the continuation and advancement of early intervention services.

The mantra of early intervention is always “the sooner, the better” which is supported across the board by studies and research that consistently show the sooner children with developmental problems are identified and serviced the better chance at success they have. The RAND Corporation released a research brief outlining the studies they did and compiled on early intervention and showcased the value these programs had not only on the individuals and their homes but also the economic benefits:

“the returns to society for each dollar invested extend from $1.80 to $17.07 [per child]”


Early intervention services are essential to the growth and success of some of the most vulnerable in society. These individuals had no control or say in their conditions or environments that put them in a disadvantageous position. We owe it to them to be vigilant and continuous in supporting the services they need to be healthy and successful members of society. 

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