Early Intervention Initial Evaluation: What to expect and how to prepare

A child is typically referred for an Early Intervention (EI) Initial Evaluation to look further into any concerns with overall development a pediatrician, parent or other specialist may have. The initial evaluation is done to determine whether or not the child qualifies for therapies through the EI program and can be a helpful tool in giving some parent suggestions to assist a child in maximizing their overall developmental potential even if they do not qualify for services. The process can seem intimidating but shouldn’t be! This post will attempt to outline the initial evaluation for the parent/caregiver and help demystify the process step-by-step.

Step 1: Intake Meeting with the Service Coordinator

Each child upon being referred to EI is assigned a Service Coordinator. This person will explain the EI process in detail and assist the family each step of the way through initial evaluation to finding providers if the child qualifies. Any questions the parent has about the process (insurance, eligibility, finding providers, etc) will be answered at the intake meeting.

Step 2: Initial Evaluation/Assessment

At the initial evaluation, specialized therapists will come to the home to assess the child’s development in a number of areas. Each team will consist of a therapist that looks at overall development as well as a number of other therapists based on need that can include:

  • Developmental therapist: looks at overall development as well as cognitive/play skills/social emotional development
  • Physical therapist: looks at gross motor development
  • Occupational therapist: looks at fine motor development and sensory processing
  • Speech therapist: looks at communication and feeding skills
  • Nutritionist: looks at diet intake
  • Social Worker: looks at family dynamics/addresses behaviorial concerns/financial need

During the initial evaluation, the parent/caregiver will have an opportunity to express any concerns they might have as related to their child’s development. The team of therapists will ask questions related to birth/medical history and observe the child at play. They will then conduct play-based evaluations in which they will assess the child’s specific skills during a number of tasks and identify areas of developmental need, if any.

Step 3: Eligibility Meeting/IFSP

After the evaluation of the child is complete, the team of therapists will review all findings with the parents and discuss the child’s performance in each area. If any areas of developmental need are identified and the child is found eligible for therapies, an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is written. The IFSP outlines exactly what therapies would be beneficial for the child and at what frequency they should be provided. Together with the parent/caregiver, goals will be written for the child in each area of need that is included in the IFSP as well. The coordinator will then discuss details of finding a therapist/scheduling with the family.

Tips to Prepare:

While not a requirement, there are things that a parent/caregiver can do proactively to ensure that the evaluation runs smoothly/best addresses their needs:

  • Locate all medical documents/past evaluations from birth on: having these on hand can assist the providers in taking medical history and ensuring that they have the most detailed background in assessing the child
  • Make a list of questions/concerns you may have ahead of time: it can be easy to forget concerns you may have during the evaluation, try to keep a list handy so that you don’t forget them while the therapists are present
  • Make a list of developmental milestones/words your child has achieved: the therapists will want to know when your child has achieved major developmental milestones and what words, if any, they are saying (verbally or signing) in order to get a better overall picture of the child
  • Schedule the initial evaluation at a time best for your child: try to schedule the initial evaluation at a time when your child will be the most available to actively play. This may mean scheduling around naptime and/or around feeding schedule so that the therapists can get a good picture of your child at their best

If you are in need of early intervention and are in Indiana, please click here to find your way to your local CFC for Indiana.

If you are in need of early intervention and are in Illinois, please click here to find your way to your local CFC for Illinois.

If you have been wait-listed for early intervention services, please call us direct at
(219) 513-8311 to reach a specialist at either one of our Illinois or Indiana offices right away. Let’s take advantage of the most important developmental time for your child together
 and see if one of our clinics might have an opening that can help you start sooner than later.