Pass or Fail: The Early Intervention Process

In this multi-part series, I provide a dissection of the phenomenon of retention and social promotion. Also, I describe the many different methods that would improve student instruction in classrooms and eliminate the need for retention and social promotion if combined effectively.

While reading this series, periodically ask yourself this question: Why are educators, parents and the American public complicit in a practice that does demonstrable harm to children and the competitive future of the country?

If early intervention is the answer, then what exactly is the process for receiving services and how difficult is it to begin this procedure?


Once a potential delay is identified, there will be a certain timeframe set for observations and with the use of diagnostic tools for assessment. As soon as this process is underway, parents and other caregivers are able to become involved. Feedback and input is requested and used to develop effective service-delivery models.

The findings of the diagnostic processes are presented to parents, and a formal document is prepared that details exactly what the level of need is deemed to be. A standard Individualized Education Plan (IEP) offers information on the student’s background and family makeup. It identifies specific strengths, usually with the intention of focusing on those strengths in the later development of support strategies. The same is true of an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).

Goals and Objectives

An IEP or IFSP in the United States includes a list of specific goals and objectives pertinent to the individual needs of a child with identified developmental delays or disabilities. Goals are designed to target educational objectives. Goals tend to vary, though, because different states have different guidelines and curricula outlining expectations for students.

One of the major factors to be aware of in the current early-intervention and school-based support systems is that expectations play a huge role in outlining goals. Because goals vary from state to state, and there are sometimes different interpretations of relevant goals and standards, and consistency in service delivery is a problem. The underlying goal of early intervention, as well as of school-based supports, is to help children or older students overcome academic challenges related to developmental delays or disabilities.

Specifically Designed Instruction

Based on individualized goals –developed in line with the broader standards – Specially Designed Instruction parameters (SDIs) are developed. SDIs are strategies designed to support the educational needs of a student who qualifies for early-intervention or school-based services.

For instance, a student who struggles with staying on task, who has an inability to concentrate due to a condition such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), would perhaps have an IEP with an SDI detailing the need for tasks to be broken down into smaller chunks. Another related SDI might be the delivery of specific prompts directly to the student by the teacher, to encourage the student to remain focused. Provisions can even allot students extra time and the option to take breaks at regular intervals, to support concentration.

Early Childhood Intervention

Inevitably, the process for early intervention is very similar to this but concentrated in the home environment because this is the natural learning environment for most children up to the age of six. Continual data collection, tracking, and analysis occurs while a child receives early intervention or school-based services. At the same time, goals, objectives, and SDIs are updated. The formal IEP or IFSP remains up to date and establishes the parameters for service by the treatment team. The treatment team also includes the parents, who are involved in support of a child’s academic needs.

School-Age Intervention Transition

Ideally, when a student prepares to enter school, there should be a smooth transition from the early childhood environment to the school setting and, if necessary, a swift implementation of the goals, objectives, and SDIs according to the child’s needs.

Undoubtedly, this is one point in which there are deficits in effectiveness and efficiency. The transition phase of early intervention or intermediate units (between early intervention and school, in some states) is often bottlenecked.

Most families state or district-wide, go through the transition process at roughly the same time of year. Meetings with parents or guardians are required, which adds to the logistical issues of scheduling and implementing data-collection, as well as service-delivery efforts.

With early intervention procedures involving multiple steps and various service professionals, how can efforts be streamlined for a more efficient process?

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