Why Act Early if You’re Concerned about Development?

Act early on developmental concerns to make a real difference for your child and you! If you’re concerned about your child’s development, don’t wait. You know your child best.

Early intervention helps children improve their abilities and learn new skills. Take these steps to help your child today:

  1. Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any signs of possible developmental delay and ask for a developmental screening.

If you or the doctor still feel worried,

  1. Ask for a referral to a specialist, and
  2. Call your state or territory’s early intervention program to find out if your child can get services to help.
Dad reading daughter book

What is Early Intervention?

Early intervention:

  • Is the term used to describe services and support that help babies and toddlers (from birth to 3 years of age in most states/territories) with developmental delays or disabilities and their families.
  • May include speech therapy, physical therapy, and other types of services based on the needs of the child and family.
  • Can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn new skills and increase their success in school and life.
  • Programs are available in every state and territory. These services are provided for free or at a reduced cost for any child who meets the state’s criteria for developmental delay.

Why Early Intervention is Important

Earlier is better!

Intervention is likely to be more effective when it is provided earlier in life rather than later.1

“If it’s autism, waiting for a child to ‘catch up on his own’ just won’t work. Acting early can help a child communicate, play, and learn from the world now and for the future. It can also prevent frustration—so common in children with communication difficulties—from turning into more difficult behaviors.”  Pennsylvania clinical psychologist

The connections in a baby’s brain are most adaptable in the first three years of life. These connections, also called neural circuits, are the foundation for learning, behavior, and health. Over time, these connections become harder to change.1

“The earlier developmental delays are detected and intervention begins, the greater the chance a young child has of achieving his or her best potential.”  Georgia pediatrician

Intervention works!

Early intervention services can change a child’s developmental path and improve outcomes for children, families, and communities.1

“Acting early gives your child a chance to receive the appropriate therapy, giving him or her the best chance for a good outcome in the future. I believe that early intervention is the reason my high-functioning son is now able to blend in with his peers and attend kindergarten in a regular classroom with no supports.”  Kansas mom

Help your child, help your family!

Families benefit from early intervention by being able to better meet their children’s needs from an early age and throughout their lives.1

“Action replaced fear and empowered me with the knowledge to help my son. He has overcome most of his symptoms and is headed to college next year.”  Florida mom

To find your state or territory’s early intervention contact information, go to cdc.gov/FindEI

What To Do While You Wait for an Appointment

Families may have to wait many weeks or months for an appointment to see a specialist or start intervention services for their child. If this happens, there are some simple things you can do to help your child’s development while you wait.

  1. Make the Most of Playtime
  2. Try some simple tips and activities in a safe way, like reading books, singing songs, and playing outside together. Talk with your child’s doctor and teachers if you have questions or for more ideas on how to help your child’s development.
  1. Download CDC’s Milestone Tracker App
  2. Use CDC’s easy-to-use app with illustrated checklists to track your child’s development from 2-months to 5-years. The app can help you communicate with your child’s doctor or early intervention contact about your child’s milestones and any concerns. The app also provides tips for encouraging your child’s development.

For more tips and activities to support your child’s development at each stage of life visit, CDC’s Positive Parenting Tips.