about Early Intervention

A system of care. A community of support.

woman and young girl sit on floor playing

Early intervention is a term that describes a wide range of services available to children, age birth to three, who have disabilities or developmental delays.  A federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C, mandates early intervention services and establishes the guidelines for eligibility and service delivery.  Early intervention services may include home visits, family training, counseling, special instruction and therapy.  These “early intervention” services are designed to help families help their infant or toddler to reach his/her developmental potential.

Children with hearing loss typically need and benefit from early intervention services.  An early interventionist, a specialist who works with infants and toddlers, will help identify the needs of you and your child and will work with you to create an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).  This plan, developed by the IFSP team which includes you as parents, will be used to provide your child and family with the services needed.

It is important that children with hearing loss begin early intervention services as soon as possible.  The goal for every child with hearing loss identified at birth is to start early intervention no later than six months of age or, if identified after birth, within three months of diagnosis.  This will help your child develop communication and language skills that will serve as a foundation for learning throughout your child’s school years.

Early Intervention in Texas

Texas provides a comprehensive system of services for families of infants and toddlers who have a hearing loss.  Two state agencies, the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services Division for Early Childhood Intervention (DARS-ECI) and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) have outlined a plan to ensure that a full range of early intervention services are available throughout all areas of Texas.

DARS-ECI is the state’s lead agency for early childhood intervention (ECI) services and provides oversight to local ECI programs that assist families. Local ECI programs work with deaf education programs within local education agencies (school districts), Regional Day School Programs for the Deaf (RDSPDs) and the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD) so that specialized services, specific to children with hearing loss, are available to families.

These specialized services, as defined by state guidelines, are known as auditory impairment (AI) services.  AI services for infants and toddlers ages birth to 3 are often referred to as deaf education early intervention or parent-infant services.  Deaf education early intervention services focus on helping  babies develop speech, language and social skills by supporting families as they begin to explore questions regarding their child’s communication and development.

Where you live determines which local ECI and which deaf education early intervention service delivery programs provide services in your area.  Local ECIs and local school districts and RDSPDs all have different names that may be reflective of a geographic area or a host agency/school district such as Central Plains Center ECI, Lewisville ISD or Abilene RDSPD.

Sample questions to ask your early interventionist(s)

  1. What is early intervention?  What can you do for my child?  What services do you provide?
  2. Does your program have staff trained to work with young infants and toddlers with hearing loss for all communication methods?
  3. Why is it so important for my child to start intervention this early?
  4. How can my child learn to communicate?  Can you tell me about sign language?  Can you tell me about the different ways my child can learn to talk?
  5. Will you send progress reports for our child to his/her doctor, audiologist or other early intervention providers?
  6. How much time will we spend in early intervention activities?  Where will the intervention activities be provided?
  7. Where can I learn more about children with hearing loss?  How can I meet other families who have young children with hearing loss?
  8. What will happen when my child turns three?
(Sample questions adapted from the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/hearingloss/index.html)

Find the answers to the most common Early Intervention questions.  Click the questions below for more information.

How do I contact someone for ECI services?

Your pediatrician or audiologist should refer you to ECI or you can call the DARS Inquiries Line at 1-800-628-5115 or DARS TDD/TTY: 1-866-581-9328.  The DARS Inquiries Line answers information and referral calls for all of DARS. In addition to ECI, DARS includes programs for students and adults who are blind or visually impaired, for students and adults who are deaf and hard of hearing, vocational rehabilitation, and other programs for adults with disabilities.

The DARS Inquiries Line provides information in English and Spanish. Other languages can be accommodated through Language Line Interpreters.  The Inquiries Line is answered Monday through Friday, 8:00a.m. to 5:00p.m. Voicemail is in operation during evenings and weekends.

You may also contact DARS through email at DARS.inquiries@dars.state.tx.us

ECI programs provide services in every Texas county.  To locate the ECI program that serves your area, you may select the county where you live from the drop-down menu and click the “Search” button.

One or more ECI programs will appear along with the address, phone numbers, email and website (if available). There may be several ECI programs in your county.

To narrow your search, enter your home zip code and click the “Search” button.  If more than one ECI program serves this zip code, you may contact any ECI program from the list and they will either forward your information to the correct ECI program or provide you the contact information so you may directly contact the program that serves your zip code.

What happens after I call or after I am referred for services?

A Service Coordinator from your local ECI program will contact you to talk about your child’s hearing status and whether you have any other concerns about your child’s development.  The ECI Service Coordinator will work with you to schedule a home visit. With your permission, your local ECI program and your local Deaf Education Early Intervention Service Provider will work in partnership with you and your family to assess your child’s strengths and needs.  Since you know your child better than anyone, you are essential to this important assessment process.

How will we decide what services are provided?

After the assessment, you and your team of professionals (usually the same people who assessed your child) review all of the information gathered about your child. A Deaf Education Early Intervention Service Provider is a certified teacher of the deaf/hard-of-hearing.  This professional is always part of the IFSP team for families of children with hearing loss. Together you and your early intervention team will develop an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP).  The plan is outcome-based, focused on what you want most for your child’s development.  You and your team of early intervention professionals then decide on strategies and services that will help your child achieve these outcomes.

Are deaf education early intervention services only for infants and toddlers who are deaf?

The term “deaf education services” is often used generically by school districts to refer to a wide range of services, birth through high school, that are appropriate for children with hearing losses ranging from mild through profound. Deaf education early intervention services are those services provided by a certified teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing in early intervention settings with families of children with hearing loss, birth to three.  Since service strategies for infants and toddlers are based on IFSP outcomes, your family’s educational program will be unique to your child and family.

Who provides the services?

The IFSP states who is responsible for providing each service. Your Service Coordinator will work with your family to support your child’s development and to arrange for services in and outside of the local ECI program. If the IFSP team decides that deaf education early intervention services will be provided, then a Deaf Education Early Intervention Service Provider (also known as a Parent Advisor), who is a certified teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing trained to work with families in early intervention settings, will be one of the service providers.

What does the Parent Advisor do?

The Parent Advisor implements the IFSP strategies that will help your child develop communication and language. He or she offers information and support to families.  Assistance may include providing resources to answer your questions about early childhood hearing loss and communication, showing you how to care for your child’s hearing aid(s) or cochlear implant, and helping you develop successful strategies to encourage your baby’s language development, listening skills, and social-emotional well-being. Most services are provided in your home or within other places that are part of your child/family’s typical routine.

Where can I find more information about early intervention services in Texas?

Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services Early Childhood Intervention (DARS-ECI)


Texas Education Agency, Services for the Deaf


Educational Resource Center on Deafness


Region 11 Education Service Center, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services State Leadership Project


Parents who are Deaf or hard of hearing may contact any of the above agencies using Relay Texas.  Just dial 7-1-1 to reach a relay operator. The free 7-1-1 access number is available anywhere, anytime.