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Early Intervention

What Is Early Intervention?

Via recognizes that all children develop in unique ways. At times, children experience delays in their development. Via’s Early Intervention services, offered to children from birth through age three, enhance a child’s development and provide support and assistance to families and caretakers.

At the most critical time in a child’s life, our therapists address delays in development and disabilities in infants and toddlers. To better serve families, we visit children in their homes, communities, and childcare facilities. Caregivers are included in the teaching process so therapy can continue in all aspects of the child’s environment.

Early intervention builds upon the natural learning that occurs in a child’s first few years. Via supports more than 250 children and families in Lehigh and Northampton Counties offering speech, occupational, and physical therapies, as well as special instruction.

Is My Child Eligible for Early Intervention Services?

Infants and toddlers are eligible to receive Early Intervention services when they have been identified as having a delay or disability in one or more of the following:

  • Physical development (including vision and hearing)
  • Cognitive development
  • Communication development
  • Sensory development
  • Social-emotional development
  • Adaptive development

For more information, contact:

Suzanne Curry, Early Intervention Manager
S.Curry@vianet.org | 610-841-5801

Therapies

Speech Therapy (ST)

Speech Therapists focus on the development of skills that enable a child to express themselves and understand others. Speech Therapists encourage the natural development of communication skills like babies locating sounds and responding to language, and making their first sounds or gestures. Muscle development of the mouth and face is necessary to facilitate speech and eating skills. A Speech Therapist looks at how a child is using their muscles and works to improve “oral-motor” skills for better eating and speech.

Occupational Therapy (OT)

Occupational Therapists focus on how a child receives and uses input from their senses (vision, hearing, touch, and movement). By working with this “sensory-motor” development, children acquire “fine motor” skills, such as the use of the eyes and hands together, so the environment is more accessible and fun. Fine motor skills are used for play, feeding, dressing, and school activities.

Physical Therapy (PT)

Physical Therapists work with children to develop gross motor skills such as rolling, sitting, crawling, walking, climbing stairs, or riding a bike. Therapists also work to improve children’s ability to maintain good body posture and move through their environment safely.

Special Instructors (SI)

Special Instructors (also known as Early Intervention Teachers) focus on promoting the acquisition of skills by infants and toddlers by designing and enhancing the learning environments, activities, and routines of children and their families. Teachers adapt teaching techniques to each individual child and work collaboratively with families to enhance a child’s skills in a variety of developmental areas, including cognitive and language processes and social interaction.

FAQs

How do I enroll a child in Via Early Intervention services?

In Pennsylvania, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) administers Early Intervention through the counties’ Mental Health offices until a child’s third birthday. Via receives referrals from Lehigh and Northampton counties after a parent has contacted their county’s Early Intervention department to get their child enrolled in this program.

County service coordinators work with families to coordinate services for their child and refer them to a program like Via’s Early Intervention program. When a child turns three, the Department of Education takes over the supervision of the programs through the Intermediate Units (IUs).

How does the Early Intervention process begin and what can I expect?

When a child qualifies for Early Intervention Services, they are assigned a service coordinator through their county Early Intervention department. The county service coordinator establishes a service plan with the family, Early Intervention specialist, and caregivers, which includes desired outcomes for the child, and the frequency and duration of services. Sessions are designed to include participation from caregivers so intervention therapies can continue outside of the structured session.

How much does Early Intervention cost?

Early Intervention is a state-wide program provided through Medicare. It is an entitlement program and is available to all families at no cost, regardless of household income.

What are my responsibilities as a parent or caregiver?

Early Intervention is most successful when there is a strong commitment from both therapists and families. Parent/caregiver involvement is essential for a child’s success. Your child’s goals are often reached by using play-based, child-centered, family-friendly approaches. Parents and/or caregivers participate in all therapy sessions. Our therapists will work with caregivers on techniques that carry over into the child’s daily activities.

Who is eligible for Early Intervention services?

Infants and Toddlers up to three years old who have:
• A 25 percent delay in one or more areas of development
OR
• A specialist’s determination that there is a delay even though it doesn’t show up on the assessments (called informed clinical opinion)
OR
• A known physical or mental condition that has a high probability of developmental delays (such as Down syndrome)

Where are Early Intervention Services provided?

Early Intervention can be provided at home, in childcare, in private or public preschools, Early Head Start and Head Start, or combinations of these that the family and the team determine are the most appropriate for the child’s progress. Services and supports also change as needed.

What are individualized supports and services?

Early Intervention supports and services are individualized for each child and family.

The plan developed for each child and family will reflect their unique activities, values, and community participation. Services using natural routines and activities support and encourage families to find and strengthen natural supports outside the Early Intervention system. These supports, established when the child is young, are likely to remain throughout the child’s school years and into adulthood.