Early intervention (EI) is best seen as a system of multidisciplinary services designed to support those family interactions that enhance optimal development of children ages birth to three years. The benefits of such a system include remediating existing developmental difficulties, preventing the future effect of these difficulties, alleviating potential delays, limiting the development of additional handicaps, and promoting improved family functioning. These goals are accomplished by providing a wide array of therapeutic and developmental services for children, coupled with instruction and support for families. EI serves children with difficulties deriving from established disabilities (Down syndrome, autism, visual/aural impairments, etc), as well as environmental risks (disadvantaged families, maltreating parents, low-birth-weight child).

The history of EI is closely tied to federal legislation for special education services. With the ...

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