Girl holding small pumpkinEarly Intervention: What It Is & Why It Works

According to the Infant & Toddler Connection of Virginia:

Early Intervention supports families of infants and toddlers, ages birth to three years, with developmental delays and disabilities. Children learn best with people they know and in the places they spend most of their time. Early Intervention professionals help families build on the things they do every day to support their child’s learning and development in order to reach their goals for their child.

On this page, you will find information about the field of early intervention, its effectiveness and its importance. Resources such as articles (from a variety of sources including academic journals), handouts, and links to external sites and documents are posted here as well as videos featuring Virginia families and service providers and those from other states. This page is made available as a central repository for families, service providers, and other community partners seeking information about what early intervention is and why it works.

Click each tab to review the resources.


Mission & Key Principles of Early Intervention


Agreed Upon Mission and Key Principles for Providing Early Intervention Services in Natural Environments (external website)
Workgroup on Principles and Practices in Natural Environments, OSEP TA Community of Practice: Part C Settings.
The “mission statement” reflects the broad over-arching purpose of family-centered early intervention services provided under Part C of IDEA. Principles are the foundations necessary to support the system of family-centered services and supports. Both the mission and principles were developed by the workgroup and reflect consensus opinion.

DEC Recommended Practices in Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education (external website)
The Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children
April 2014
According to the document, “the purpose of this document is to help bridge the gap between research and practice by highlighting those practices that have been shown to result in better outcomes for young children with disabilities, their families, and the personnel who serve them.” Topics addressed include leadership, assessment, environment, family, instruction, interaction, teaming and collaboration, and transition.

7 Key Principles: Looks Like/Doesn’t Look Like (external website)
Workgroup on Principles and Practices in Natural Environments OSEP TA Community of Practice – Part C Settings
This document provides examples of what key early intervention principles look like and do not look like in actual practice.

Articles, Research Reports, & Handouts


Early Childhood Education as an Essential Component of Economic Development (external website, pdf)
Political Economy Research Institute
University of Massachusetts
This 2013 report discusses research findings on early childhood education programs and discusses how the universal provision of high quality early childhood education programs can make significant positive contributions to economic development, as well as general social well-being.

Adams, R. A., Tapia, C., & The Council on Children with Disabilities. (2013). Early intervention, IDEA Part C services, and the medical home: Collaboration for best practice and best outcomes. (external website, pdf)
Pediatrics, 132, e1073-e1088.
This article describes the similarities between the family-centered practices used in early intervention and the concept of the medical home. The importance of early referral and “relationship-focused, individualized, accessible early intervention services and the need for collaborative partnerships for care” (p. e1073) are discussed.

Early Intervention for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities and their Families: Participants, Services, and Outcomes (external website)
Final Report of the National Early Intervention Longitudinal Study (NEILS) January 2007
The National Early Intervention Longitudinal Study is the first longitudinal (10-year) study to examine who is participating in early intervention, what services are being provided, and what long-term outcomes can be identified. Implications for policy and practice are also included.

Guralnick, M. J. (2011). Why early intervention works: A systems perspective (external website) Infants & Young Children, 24(1), 6-28.
This article describes early intervention from a systems perspective that accounts for reciprocal patterns of influence, such as child social and cognitive competence, family interactions, and family resources.

Evidence-Based Practice Empowers Early Childhood Professionals and Families (external website,pdf)
Scientists from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute use Snapshots to summarize research articles and publications. This Snapshot provides a definition of evidence-based practice and the impact on the field of early childhood.

Rosenbert, S. A., Zhang, D., & Robinson, C. C. (2008). Prevalence of developmental delays and participation in early intervention services for young children. Pediatrics, 121, 1503-1509. (external website)
Authors of this study examined rates of Part C eligibility and access to services in children at ages 9 and 24 months. Data was gathered as part of a longitudinal study with a nationally representative sample.

The Importance of Early Intervention with Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities and their Families (external website, pdf)

This two-page document summarizes the research in early intervention to answer the following questions:

  • Why intervene early?
  • Why are services essential?
  • What are the unmet needs?

The document concludes with a “take home message” describing the urgent need to identify infants and toddlers with special needs early; how high quality intervention can reduce the incidence of future problems; and how intervention is likely to be more effective and less expensive when provided earlier in life.



What is Early Intervention in Virginia? (external website) | VA's Integrated Training Collaborative
This video features Virginia service providers, families, and administrators as they describe early intervention. Video clips and photos are also featured to help viewers understand what early intervention looks like and why it works. 

For guidance about how to use this video to explain early intervention, check out the following two resources:

  • Letter to Community Partner PDF
  • Explaining Early Intervention: Virginia’s Statement PDF

Early Intervention: A Routines-Based Approach Part 1: Traditional vs. Routines (external site, video) | Related Resource Page

Early Intervention Videos & Resources

Early Intervention: A Routines-Based Approach Part 2: What Intervention Can (and Should) Look Like (external site, video) | Related Resource Page

Early Intervention: A Routines-Based Approach Part 3: Changing the Mindset (external site, video) | Related Resource Page

Early Intervention Home Visits (external site, video) | Connecticut Birth to Three System
This video shows and discusses what families can expect on early intervention visits. The video was developed by Connecticut's Birth to Three System but can be very useful for any family who is new to EI. The video includes explanations about a primary provider model, parent coaching, and using typical daily routines as the context for intervention. The video is also available in Spanish.

CONNECT Modules 5-Step Learning Cycle (external website)
Scientists from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute describe their Five Step Learning Cycle to support the use of evidence-based practices. This short video provides a brief overview.

Impact of Early Intervention

Video - The Benefits of Early Intervention - Erin and ArloThe Benefits of Early Intervention – Erin & Arlo (external site, video) | Related Resource Page
Erin describes how early intervention has helped her son, Arlo, thrive.


Video - The Benefits of Early Intervention - Erin and ArloThe Benefits of Early Intervention – Kurt Kondrick (external site, video) | Related Resource Page
Kurt describes how well his daughter Chloe has adjusted with a solid foundation from early intervention.


Video Early Intervention Saved His LifeEarly Childhood Intervention: The Power of the Family (external site, video) | Open Society Foundations 
This video features experts from around the world describing key aspects of early childhood intervention and its benefits to children and families.


Video Early Intervention Saved His LifeEarly Intervention Saved His Life (external site, video) | Related Resource Page
Carol describes how she believes that early intervention saved her son’s social-emotional life.


Video Charlie HouseThe Importance of Service Coordination – Charlie House (external site, video) | Related Resource Page
Hear how one father describes the support his family received from their service coordinator and the importance of this support to his family.


Liam's StoryLiam's Story, A Mother's Voice (external site, video)
Jamie, Liam's mother, reads a letter she wrote to the VA General Assembly about how important early intervention has been in her family's life. In the video, you will meet Jamie and Liam and see how, through collaboration between his family and his early intervention providers, Liam is able to communicate, use a computer, and move about at home, on trips to a museum and out to get ice cream with his family.

Brandon's StoryBrandon's Story, A Mother's Voice (external site, video)
Meet Brandon’s mother as she talks about the importance and impact of early intervention on her son’s life. You’ll also hear from Brandon, who is a teenager and talented musician.

Presentations & Training Curricula


Building the Legacy for Our Youngest Children with Disabilities: A Training Curriculum on IDEA 2004’s Part C (external site)
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities

September 2014

This module series is designed to be used by trainers to train others about early intervention under Part C of IDEA. Each module includes a slide show, trainer’s guide, handouts and activity sheets for participants. Modules include:

  • Module 1–Basics of Early Intervention
  • Module 3–Pre-Referral and Referral Activities
  • Module 4–Screening, Evaluation, and Assessment Procedures
  • Module 5–Procedures for IFSP Development, Review, and Evaluation
  • Module 6–Content of the IFSP
  • Module 8–The Transition Process and Lead Agency Notification
  • Module 9–Development of the Transition Plan
  • Module 14–System of Payments and Use of Funds in Part C

Additional modules are currently under construction.

Websites & Presentations


Early Childhood Research and Reference Portal (external site)

ECTA Center
This Web page provides access to a variety of research and reference materials for individuals at all levels of the system: administrators, researchers, policy makers, practitioners, families and advocates for young children with special nee

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