Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) Services is the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C program in Texas that works with families that have children birth to 36 months of age with developmental delays or disabilities.
Most referrals to ECI come from the medical community or directly from families. Other sources include the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, childcare providers and social service agencies.
Infants and toddlers living in Texas may be eligible for ECI services if the child has:
- A developmental delay that significantly affects functioning in one or more areas of development, including cognitive, communication, motor, adaptive or social-emotional.
- A medically diagnosed condition that has a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay.
- A hearing or visual impairment as defined by the Texas Education Agency.
DARS contracts with local agencies to provide ECI services across Texas. Contractors include community centers, school districts, education service centers and private nonprofit organizations. The services are financed through federal, state and local funds; Medicaid; or private insurance and family fees.
ECI services feature individualized planning, family-centered services based on the needs of each family and child, professional and credentialed providers, and comprehensive management of each child's case. Additionally, while most services are provided at home, they can also be provided in other familiar settings where the child goes regularly. Before the child turns 3, the ECI team works with the family to determine the next steps for helping the child transition to services beyond ECI.
High Rating for ECI System Performance
Each year, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C programs across the nation submit an annual performance report to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Texas was one of 23 states that received the highest rating from OSEP for meeting its targets for 11 performance indicators. ECI was 100 percent compliant and even met requirements for performance indicators that were never included before.
State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP)
Texas ECI submitted the first phase of its plan to improve the social-emotional skills of infants and toddlers with developmental delays to the U.S. Department of Education OSEP in 2015. This plan is part of the SSIP, which focuses on improving services and outcomes for children and families receiving ECI services.
For Pinion Family, Good Things Come in Threes
Liz and Santiago Pinon welcomed triplets Felicita, Frida and Santiago into their family on Aug. 23, 2012. The triplets were born in a hospital in Illinois 15 weeks early. In addition to only weighing up to 1 pound, 8 ounces, making them micropreemies, they were also diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Shortly after the triplets were born, new opportunities brought the Pinon family to Texas where they contacted ECI. "I contacted Texas ECI to see what I needed to do to get my babies in the program. They were very responsive and began services shortly after we arrived," stated Liz. ECI professionals worked with the family to develop a plan for each baby. Felicita, Frida and Santiago all required occupational, physical and speech therapies.
A priority goal for Felicita, Frida and Santiago was to improve their language skills. The ECI speech therapist worked with the parents by showing them techniques to improve language when reading books to the children. ECI recommended Liz talk about the colors in the book or talk about what was happening in the story. "I have noticed improvement, especially with Santiago [not speaking] at all to being one of my more vocal kids," laughed Liz. Another goal was to help the children improve their mobility, and ECI taught Liz and Santiago different techniques to help their triplets develop their fine and gross motor skills.
ECI services helped not only the triplets, but also helped the family as a whole. The Pinon family's adopted 11-year-old son, Gabriel, benefited from the same fine and gross motor skills techniques as his siblings. "I now see what areas my son needed assistance in, and I was able to help him too," commented Liz. This is an example of how ECI teaches the family important skills to help the entire family.
Felicita, Frida and Santiago are doing very well. They have all moved on to school and continue to develop new skills. "ECI really cared about our family and that was important to me and my husband," shared Liz. "We are so thankful to ECI. Without them we're not sure where we would be today."
Building Blocks Help Noah and Family Connect
Deidre and Dustin of Mansfield welcomed their son Noah into their family on June 26, 2012. As Noah grew, Deidre did not suspect he was not reaching developmental milestones at the same time as other kids his age until she talked with coworkers whose children were waving goodbye, pointing to items they wanted, or saying simple words like "mama" or "dada."
"I know you're not supposed to compare your child to someone else's, but something just didn't seem right," said Deidre. She spoke with Dustin, and they decided it was time to consult Noah's pediatrician, who referred them to ECI.
At first, Deidre thought her son might need a little more time to reach developmental milestones. Once ECI professionals conducted an evaluation and assessment, Deidre and Dustin made the decision to enter Noah in the ECI program at 18 months old. A plan of services, which included occupational and speech therapies, was developed for Noah and his family.
Learning how to ask for things was a priority goal for Noah. The ECI speech therapist taught Noah and his parents how to use sign language to help Noah communicate his wants and needs, including how to sign the word "more." In addition, the speech therapist helped Noah's family learn techniques to help Noah orally communicate his needs to them. Noah's parents were able to use these techniques even when the speech therapist was not present.
Noah enjoyed using his building blocks, but his parents noticed he would become upset when his building blocks would fall down. ECI staff asked his parents to have him stack three blocks, knock them down, and then explain to him it was okay. Noah's parents had to repeat this process by increasing the number of blocks he would stack each time. "Once we began doing this with Noah, we saw a reduction in his tantrums.
This was a huge positive step forward for him," commented Deidre.
Today, Noah is a happy little boy who is more social with his family and can say "I love you." Noah loves to read and play on his iPad and attends school where he continues to learn new things. "ECI was there for us when no one else was. They gave us a lot of ideas and strategies [that are] working. We are so appreciative of the support to our family," said Deidre.