Additional Early Services

While the Early Intervention Part C Program provides the main services for infants and toddlers with disabilities, there are more government (public), private, and pre-school services available to help children, especially if the child does not qualify for the Early Intervention program. Children can often be enrolled in more than one program since each program may have a slightly different focus and eligibility requirements. These programs are described below.

Public Early Services Programs

Early Head Start and Head Start Programs

Early Head Start and Head Start programs are federally funded and may also have some state or local funding. In addition to income eligibility, the programs have requirements to serve children with disabilities or developmental delays.

Early Head Start

  • Early Head Start programs have services for children from birth to age three who may be at risk for developmental delays and have low family income.
  • Early Head Start provides structured activities and educational play, health screenings, and family interactions to help children learn and grow skills.
  • They also offer parent classes and check developmental milestones.

Some Early Head Start providers may also be the designated Early Intervention providers for the area; this can be confusing at times, but can also be helpful for all children because it gives them an inclusive setting where they can play and learn with same-age peers.

Head Start

  • Head Start is available to children who turn 3 or 4 by September 1st of the current year.
  • The program takes part in in school-readiness course of study that includes literacy, language, science, mathematics, and social-emotional development.
  • They also receive medical and dental services, have healthy meals and snacks, and enjoy playing safely in- and out-of-doors.

Along with education, family involvement is at the core of success. Head Start/Early Head Start families can take part in the classroom as volunteers, help with classroom projects, and even help develop the course of study.

If the child does not qualify for the Early Intervention program or the Early Head Start/Head Start programs due to income or disability, these programs can guide you to other resources that may be of help. Families should also ask their child's doctor about other recommendations, and call their state family organizations, such as the Parent Training and Information Center, Parent to Parent Programs, Family Voices, or Family to Family Health Information Centers. These groups are the best place to learn about help in local areas.

Public Programs That Work With Early Intervention Programs

Some states have other publicly-funded programs that serve young children. The programs will differ by state. Even though young children may not be in school yet, the special education director for the Local Education Agency (LEA), often a school district, can help parents find programs for pre-school age children.

Home Visiting Programs

Home visiting programs may serve:
  • Pregnant women
  • First-time mothers
  • Families with children with special health care needs
  • Low-income families
  • Other families
Home visitors may teach parents about:
  • Feeding
  • Developmental milestones
  • Medical issues
  • Parent-infant bonding
  • Other topics
These programs help the children by:
  • Improving health and development
  • Preventing abuse
  • Improving readiness for school
  • Showing families how to access other available services
The programs may use:
  • Registered nurses
  • Other professionals
  • Para-professionals
  • Volunteers
The types of home visitors, eligibility, and available services will depend on the type (or model) and funding. A list of evidence-based Home Visiting Models (HRSA MCH) can be found through the Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Local health departments, universities, or community organizations may use modified versions of some of these programs, or may have their own programs. The Home Visiting Program: State Fact Sheets links to the state contact, usually the state health department, for one type of federal grant that supports home visiting programs. Parents can contact the state organization to find local programs or contact the local programs directly to determine eligibility.

Private Early Services Programs

Many non-profit and for-profit organizations also have programs for young children. For example, some children may benefit from working with a mental health professional that provides therapy for children with disabilities. Some preschools and child care providers may have skills in serving children with developmental delays. These groups may be more difficult to find than well-known government and non-profit organizations, but many of them offer great care.

One way to find these groups is word of mouth such as asking other parents and the medical home (see About Medical Home) for recommendations. Families will want to research these programs with care to learn about eligibility, fees, and whether their health care plan will help to pay. Some health care plans do not cover care for specific disabilities and parents will have to pay out-of-pocket. Of course, Families will also want to ask about staff qualifications and check references.

Pre-School Early Services

It is important to know that children with special needs may qualify for special education preschool. These 3- to 5-year olds are entitled to receive these services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) law if found eligible. If a child doesn’t qualify, or if families simply want to explore what’s out there that might better serve a child, there are other choices.

Children with special needs are likely to need extra support and more one-on-one teaching. There are many private preschools that are geared toward children with special needs, but preschool in any setting can help to give a child the structure and skills he or she needs to be ready for kindergarten and succeed in a school setting. Families might start researching preschools on the web, by asking other parents, or even by asking their doctor or therapist, but families will want to make sure that they find what is best for their child’s health and progress. Many private schools and public charter schools have a waiting list and are on a lottery system to enroll children from year to year; it’s a good thought to put the family’s name on the list as early as they can for the school they want. Families can always cancel later if they have found something else.


Information & Support

For Parents and Patients

Find Your Parent Center
Parent Centers provide education and referrals for families with a child who has a disability, as well as the professionals who work with them. There are almost 100 Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) and Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs) in the US states and Territories; Center for Parent Information & Resources.

Family Voices
A national, nonprofit, family-led organization promoting quality health care for all children and youth, particularly those with special health care needs. Locate your Family-to-Family Health Information Center by state.

Family Voices (FVAO) or Health Information(F2F) Center
Family-to-Family Health Information Centers are nonprofit, family-staffed organizations that assist families of children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN). Locate state-based F2F HICs, providing support, information, resources, and training.

Parent Training and Information Centers (PTI)
Provide training and information to parents of infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities and to people who work with parents to enable them to participate more fully and effectively with professionals in meeting the educational needs of their children with disabilities. See the link for Download a List of Parent Centers across the USA to find the parent center in your state; U.S. Department of Education.

State Part C Early Intervention Coordinators
Lists state contacts for Early Intervention (Part C) agencies and is an easy way to locate the person in charge of your state’s Early Intervention programs; National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA Center).

Parent to Parent USA
A national nonprofit organization that provides support to state Parent to Parent organizations; provides links to state organizations; provides a Matching Listserv to help organizations connect families to each other; and provides links to other organizations that serve families.

Learn the Signs Act Early (CDC)
Offers many tools, videos, lists, learning materials, and a developmental Milestone Tracker app (ages 2 months to 5 years); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Talaris Child Development Timeline
Provides a helpful, interactive timeline for parent’s to look at a child’s developmental milestones in different areas including physical, social, learning, and communication.

Home Visiting Models (HRSA MCH)
List and links to descriptions for various types evidence-based home visiting programs (models); Health Resources and Services Administration Maternal and Child Health.

Home Visiting Program: State Fact Sheets
Links to state fact sheets for home visiting programs.

Early Head Start (EHS) Home-Based Model
The Early Head Start (EHS) Home-Based Model is one of eight evidence-based home visiting models selected for the Affordable Care Act Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program.

Services for Patients & Families Nationwide (NW)

For services not listed above, browse our Services categories or search our database.

* number of provider listings may vary by how states categorize services, whether providers are listed by organization or individual, how services are organized in the state, and other factors; Nationwide (NW) providers are generally limited to web-based services, provider locator services, and organizations that serve children from across the nation.

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: May 2013; last update/revision: September 2020
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Authors: Alfred N. Romeo, RN, PhD
Gina Pola-Money
Lynne M. Kerr, MD, PhD
Reviewer: Tina Persels
Authoring history
2014: revision: Gina Pola-MoneyR; Shena McAuliffe, MFAR
2013: first version: Tina PerselsR
AAuthor; CAContributing Author; SASenior Author; RReviewer