Are you worried about how your baby or toddler is developing? Children grow and develop at their own pace. Look at this checklist of developmental milestones to see if your child’s development is on track.
If you are still concerned, talk with your child’s doctor or call Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) at 1-800-628-5115 to find an ECI program in your area. The program is part of the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS). You can also email DARS.firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not delay, because the first 3 years of a child’s life are so important to their overall health and well-being.
What Is ECI?
- ECI is a statewide program for children with disabilities and developmental delays from birth to 3 years of age.
- It supports families like yours. Support services can include:
- Case management and specialized skills training.
- Deaf education and vision services.
- Physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
- Nursing and nutrition services.
- Social work and counseling services.
- Services are provided by a variety of local agencies and organizations, which cover every county in Texas.
- ECI services are provided in places that are familiar to your child and family. Though most ECI services happen at home, they can also take place in other locations that your family is used to, like a childcare center, library, park, and other spots in the community.
What Can You Expect From the ECI Process?
- If you suspect problems with your child’s abilities and growth, don’t delay calling ECI. This is not a time to wait and see. As a parent, you can make a referral yourself – call ECI and see what they can do to help. When you call, staff will explain ECI services, talk with you about your concerns, and answer any questions that are important to you. Together you can decide if you want to continue with ECI and get your child evaluated.
- If you decide to have an ECI evaluation, you will be assigned a service coordinator who will support you during the ECI evaluation and planning process – tell you your rights, make sure you know you can invite other people to the evaluation visit, explain what’s going on, and more.
- The service coordinator can also help you right away if you have a problem or concern and need help for your child now.
- The service coordinator will schedule the evaluation visit with the team that helps figure out if your child is eligible to get ECI services. This visit usually happens in your home, but you can ask for it to be anywhere you and your child are most comfortable.
- Once approved for ECI, you and your child’s ECI service coordinator will create an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP). It will include services based on the strengths and needs of your child and family. You are a key part of this plan.
- The ECI staff will teach you how to work with your child to support their development during daily activities such as bath, play, and meal times.
Who Pays for ECI Services?
- Your family can get these services at no cost to you:
- Evaluation and assessment.
- Case management.
- IFSP development.
- Translation and interpreter services, including sign language.
- The cost for other services depends on your family’s situation. Some families do not pay anything for ECI services, while other families pay part of the cost. ECI will ask if you have health insurance and if they can bill this insurance. To learn about what your family might need to pay, you can look over the Paying for Early Childhood Intervention Services booklet.
- ECI staff will work with your family, so that you understand the Family Cost Share system and know what you will pay for services.
- ECI also pays for some amount of respite services so you can get a much-needed break and take care of your family’s well being. Ask your service coordinator for the ECI Respite flyer, which explains how it works. The service coordinator can also help you find respite through other community resources.
What Happens Once Your Child’s ECI Services End?
- ECI services end on your child’s 3rd birthday, but some children leave before they turn 3 years old. Children may leave ECI before their 3rd birthday for many reasons. For example, they might no longer have a need for services.
- Before it’s time to leave ECI, your service coordinator should help you think about what other supports and services you can get in the community.
- The service coordinator and other important team members will help you create a transition plan to help you address your child’s educational, developmental, social, emotional, and health needs after they leave ECI.
- When your child is 3 years old, they might qualify for special education services through the Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities in your local school district. Not all children in ECI are approved to get special education services, but your service coordinator can help you find out and plan for this transition.
- If your child is not eligible for special education services, they might be able to get services from a community-based or private home therapy company. Your insurance company might be able to provide details. ECI staff can provide information to the new providers about your child’s progress and current goals.
- Learn more by reading “Beyond ECI: ECI Transition Handbook”.
What Are Your Rights in ECI?
As a parent, you and your child have rights. For example, you have the right to receive all of the services outlined in your IFSP. If you are not getting those services or are told that a certain type of therapist is not available, then you have the right to ask questions, complain, and more.
You also have the right to file a complaint if you disagree with the ECI evaluation and assessment that decided your child was not eligible to get services.
Here are some things you can do and how you can learn about your rights:
Tips for Parents New to ECI
“You may never know what turns on that light bulb for your child, but you know what is working and what is not working. I believe approaching it with the best resources, like ECI, was what brought it along for both of my children.”
“Take notes and make a checklist. Do one thing at a time and don't be afraid to ask questions. In fact, ask lots of questions and keep asking until you understand fully.”