08 June 2009

Making Dreams Attainable: Early Intervention Services for Young Children With Disabilities

When it comes to healthy early childhood development, there is a wide range of normal, but the pace is not steady. Young children learn in leaps and bounds (CDPI, 2003). For young children with developmental disabilities, early interventions can greatly improve long-term outcomes (Oser & Cohen, 2003). Early intervention provides assistance and supports to encourage the best possible developmental results, and it supports families trying to provide for their child’s special requirements. For vulnerable infants and toddlers, early intervention can be a lifeline to optimal social, emotional, cognitive and physical development (Jones, 2009).

What is Part C of the Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities (IDEA)?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires states to diagnose and provide suitable early intervention provisions to children under age three who are developmentally delayed or have a condition that is associated with a developmental delay. States must guarantee that early intervention provisions will be available to every qualified family. Annual monetary support for each state is based upon population estimates of the number of infants and toddlers (birth through age two) in the overall population (Jones, 2009).

States also can provide services to infants and toddlers who are at higher risk of confronting a significant lag if early intervention services are not available (i.e. children born to teen mothers or children born to drug-addicted parents) but few states actually provide services to these families (RI Kids Count, 2009).

Fast Facts:
- In Shelby County, early intervention services are provided by the Tennessee Early Intervention System, a voluntary educational program for families with children ages birth through two years of age with disabilities or developmental delays.

- In 2008, 779 local children received early intervention services, 1.84% of the 42,361 Shelby County children under age three*. Nationwide, approximately 16% to 18% of children have developmental delays (Glascoe & Shapiro, 2007).

- In the state of Tennessee (2007), over 4,400 children under age three received Part C Early Intervention Services. Over 16% (737) of Tennessee children receiving early intervention aid reside in Shelby County, the state’s most populated county (TDOE, 2007).

In order to promote optimal brain development in our youngest children, please consider the following policy suggestions (Zero to Three, 2009):

-Support professional development of the early intervention labor force.

-Increase connections to comprehensive early education experiences for young children across various environments.

-Extend and improve early recognition of infants and toddlers to comprise greater organization and partnership among early childhood professionals.

For more information about early intervention in Shelby County, please contact Memphis Delta TEIS at 901-937-6738.


“Promoting School Success: Closing the Gap Between Research and Practice.” 2003. San Francisco, CA: CDPI Education Fund.

Glascoe, F.P., & Shapiro, H.L. (2007). Introduction to developmental and behavioral screening. Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics Online, www.dbpeds.org.

Jones, L. (2009). Making hope a reality: Early intervention for infants and toddlers with disabilities. Washington, DC: ZERO TO THREE Policy Center.

Oser, C. and Cohen, J. (2003). Improving early intervention: Using what we know about infants and toddlers with disabilities to reauthorize Part C of IDEA. Washington, DC: ZERO TO THREE Policy Center.

Rhode Island Kids Count. (2009). Children enrolled in early intervention. (2009 Rhode Island Kids Count Factbook). Providence, RI: Author.

Tennessee Department of Education. (2008, December). Tennessee child count data: District data. Nashville,TN: Author.

Tennessee Department of Education. (2007, December). Rank order data: Birth through 2 years of age. Nashville, TN: Author. (*Includes County Population Estimate)

Zero to Three. (2009). Early Experiences Matter Policy Guide. Washington, DC: Zero to Three.

For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/.

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