In the late 1970's, several families with children with disabilities stood on the steps of the Texas Legislature. Months of meeting with families across Texas, talking to them and listening to their stories brought them to Austin. In one arm, they carried their children. In the other, letters, stories and statistical data that said families like themselves-families with children with special needs-needed help. That pivotal moment in time gave birth to what is now the Division for Early Childhood Intervention Services, a division of the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. What follows is a description of the milestones in the development of the ECI system.
1979: During the Texas legislative session, a small group of parents, collaborating with dedicated professionals and legislators, launched an effort to establish a state‑funded ECI program. In March of 1979, Senator W.E. "Pete" Snelson told the parents if they could obtain information about statewide needs for services in four weeks, he would go to work for them. Maxine Black, a parent, said about this important request:
We spent four weeks with our kids under one arm and telephones in the other doing research for 12‑14 hours per day. In the course of our research we talked to people all over the state. I remember meeting mothers of children 20 years older than my child. They said they were tired. They said you could never let your guard down. We met families of children on waiting lists. We met families who were literally destroyed by the strain brought on by lack of services. At the end of the four weeks, we took cardboard boxes full of data to Snelson's legislative aide. The aide was shocked. He never thought he would see us again.
As a result of the parents' hard work, Senator Snelson agreed to introduce legislation; however, it never reached the floor of the House of Representatives. In the last 72 hours of the session, the Legislature created an interim study committee to look into the statewide need for early intervention services.
1981: After holding statewide hearings, the interim study committee, with Senator Snelson as chairperson, recommended legislation which would create an interagency program. Senate Bill 36 was later passed. ECI was officially a state program.
1993: In 1992, the ECI Interagency Council decided to provide services to all eligible children at the beginning of 1993. That same year, the Texas ECI Program became the first in the country to function as an independent state agency under the umbrella of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
1997: Senate Bill 305 established a nine-member governing Board composed of eight public members appointed by the Governor. Membership was comprised of family members of children with developmental disabilities and one Board member who was a representative of TEA. In addition to the voting Board members, non-voting representatives come from these state agencies:
- Texas Department of Health
- Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation
- Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse
- Texas Department of Human Services
- Texas Department of Protection and Regulatory Services
The 78th Legislature, Regular Session, passed House Bill 2292 which restructured the health and human services agencies in Texas. The bill consolidated the 12 existing health and human services agencies into four departments.
2004: On March 1, 2004, the Texas Interagency Council on Early Childhood Intervention, along with the Texas Rehabilitation Commission, Texas Commission for the Blind and the Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing merged into one department to form the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services.