Early intervention (EI) is a system of services that helps eligible babies and toddlers learn the skills that typically develop during the first three years of life, such as:
- communication (talking, listening, understanding);
- cognitive (thinking, learning, solving problems);
- physical (reaching, rolling, crawling, and walking);
- social/emotional (playing, feeling secure and happy); and
- self-help (eating, dressing).
Most children with hearing loss qualify for EI under the “communication” category. Once diagnosed and fit with appropriate amplification (if needed), starting EI services as quickly as possible minimizes delays in developing speech, language and social skills. The sooner a child begins receiving appropriate intervention, the more likely he/she is to stay on track and meet developmental milestones.
How do I get started?
Following confirmation of hearing loss, your audiologist will automatically submit a referral to the public early intervention program based on your county.
The program will then begin to collect documentation and prepare for your child’s EI evaluation. They may request reports and test results from your audiologist to help them determine your child’s eligibility for services.
Be sure to respond to calls and paperwork requests from the EI program staff promptly so that your child's EI evaluation appointment can be scheduled as soon as possible. You cannot begin receiving services until the evaluation is completed and your child is determined to be eligible.
What other EI options are available?
In addition to the public EI options offered through the department of education, there are private EI options as well. Some families choose private EI to supplement or substitute for public EI. Private EI may offer additional services and/or more intense or frequent sessions.
Though the following options are separated by communication mode (auditory or visual), remember that you can explore any communication opportunity until you determine what is right for your child and your family.
Options for families interested in pursuing listening and spoken language (auditory)
Tucker Maxon Oral School: A comprehensive infant-toddler program located in Portland, OR specifically designed to teach children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing to listen and talk. They also offer tele-intervention services.
John Tracy Clinic: Through distance education, curriculum is available to parents by mail or online. Courses are available in English and Spanish and free of charge.
The Moog Center for Deaf Education Teleschool: Through distance technology, the Moog Center (based in St Louis, MO) offers virtually the same curriculum and coaching strategies that have proven to be successful in their Family School Program.
Options for families interested in pursuing signed language (visual)
Parents who have decided to include signed language to their baby's communication options will also need to learn to sign as quickly as possible. Sign language classes are offered at many community colleges, recreational institutions (YMCA), as well as on DVD and online.
Sign With Me: Instructional DVD and workbook help parents learn to sign (ASL) simple but expressive sentences for daily interaction with a deaf or hard-of-hearing child.
Life-Print: Internet-based, free of charge, self-study courses in ASL. Content covers two full semesters of ASL, and offers a searchable video-dictionary.