What is EI?

Early Intervention (EI) is a program to support families with children from 0-3 who are behind in their development.

It provides therapy services and parent coaching to help kids learn important developmental skills.

Kids learn skills at different ages; things like rolling over, talking, and interacting with people around them.

But sometimes they may have a developmental delay. This is when they don't do certain things that most kids their age can do.

If your child shows any sign of this, you may qualify for Early Intervention. 

What does Early Intervention do?

  • Offers therapy services to help children practice skills through focused play to support their development

  • Helps the family learn how to encourage their child's development at home

Image of a child playing with a ball beside the text'If kids get this focused play at an early age, they are more likely to catch up in their development. The earlier the better!'

Image of an exclamation mark beside the text 'If you qualify for Early Intervention services there is no cost to you! The payment may come from your insurance, MassHealth or the Massachusetts Department of Health.'

EI is offered in all states.  In Massachusetts, it's run through the MA Department of Public Health (DPH), part of the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS).

EI can help when kids have delays in any of these areas:

  • Physical: using their body to do things like nurse, roll over, sit up, walk, grab things, see or hear

  • Cognitive: thinking and learning, recognizing familiar things, learning routines

  • Communication: understanding what you say, pointing at things they want, babbling, speaking

  • Social and Emotional: forming attachments to family and caregivers, playing with others, managing emotions

  • Adaptive: Self-help skills like eating, dressing or using the bathroom

For example, if your child is not learning to say words when most of their friends are, they may have a speech or language delay. This is very common. Your EI program could have a specialist come to your home regularly to work with you and your child. They would help you learn how to play with your child in a way that helps them practice the skills they need to catch up and learn to talk.


Services can happen anywhere your child feels at home: daycare, a community center or a grandparent's house.


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Early Intervention comes from a Federal law called IDEA: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Part C of IDEA is called The Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities. This is also called Early Intervention (EI). The DPH is in charge of it.

This law started in 1986. It provides money to states to give services to young kids who need help in their development.

The main point is: If kids get services at an early age, they are less likely to need extra help later on.

The goals are: 

  • to help kids aged 0-3 to "catch up" in development.

  • to help families meet their child's needs.

  • to reduce costs of special education when the kids get older.

Different states run their programs a little differently. The information in this Guide is for Massachusetts.

Source: ECTA Center

Sources: Center for Parent Information and Resources, Family TIES of MA, ECTA Center, EOHHS