ECI Information for Health & Medical Professionals

For more than 35 years, the Texas Early Childhood Intervention program has provided support and services for more than 950,000 children from birth to 36 months and their families. ECI services not only address the child’s developmental needs but build on parents’ natural ability to help their child learn new skills.

Families look to health professionals for guidance on their child's growth and development. ECI wants to partner with you to help families get the services they need for their children. Learn how ECI can help families in your health care practice.

Why does ECI benefit children and families?

ECI services include research supported practices.

  • Children learn through frequent interactions with familiar people (parents), in caring relationships with people they trust.
  • Services are designed to help children master developmental milestones, while at the same time, strengthening parents’ confidence in their child’s needs to grow and learn. When a change happens that impacts a child’s learning, ECI can help parents adapt to those changes and support their child to meet their milestones. 
  • Children learn through repetition. Services that help families incorporate learning strategies into their typical routines provide a rich environment for learning to happen. 
    • Practicing finger feeding during snack and mealtime (fine motor skills)
    • Making sounds or repeating words during bedtime story time (developing cognitive and language skills)
    • Rolling a ball back and forth (social skills)
    • Pulling up to the couch to stand or to take a few steps (gross motor skills)
  • Services are individualized based on the needs of the child and the concerns of the family and are provided by licensed or credentialed professionals.
  • Services are family centered. Key components of family-centered services include the following:
    • Engaging with family members to understand their lives, goals, strengths and challenges
    • Placing value on developing a relationship between family and practitioner
    • Working with the family to set goals, strengthen capacity, and make decisions
    • Providing individualized, culturally responsive, and evidence-based interventions for each family

How is ECI different from traditional children’s services?

  • ECI’s foundation for services is based on the Seven Key Guiding Principles (PDF). These principles provide an explanation of how early intervention services are provided and why they support positive outcomes for children and families.

ECI Family-Centered Model

  • A developmental model that uses an interdisciplinary team to provide comprehensive services designed to improve functional outcomes.
  • Services are provided in environments identified by the family as places where the child typically spends time during normal routines and using materials found naturally in these settings.
  • The focus of the service delivery is on coaching and instructing parents and caregivers so they can carry out the intervention techniques and provide opportunities for the child to learn and progress in his or her environment.

Traditional Children’s Services Model

  • A medical model that provides discipline-specific, clinical treatment for a developmental issue.
  • Services are provided in a location identified by the provider using clinic-centered equipment.
  • The focus of the service is treating the skill deficits in the patient to reduce or eliminate impairment.

Who is Eligible for ECI Services?

Children are eligible for services if they are under 36 months old, reside in Texas and meet one of ECI’s eligibility types.

  • A medically diagnosed condition likely to cause a developmental delay and demonstrate a need for services.
  • A developmental delay of 25 percent in one or more areas of development or a 33 percent delay if it happens only in the area of communication.
  • A vision or hearing impairment as defined by the Texas Education Agency qualifies for ECI.

When a child is referred for developmental delay, the ECI program administers the Battelle Developmental Inventory-Second Edition — a standardized, norm-referenced evaluation tool that evaluates all developmental domain areas including cognitive, social interactions, gross and fine motor skills, adaptive skills and communication. This establishes a child’s percent of delay for eligibility.

When should I make a referral?

Some of the situations that might prompt a referral include:

  • You or the parent has concerns about the child’s development.
  • Your screening of the child indicates a need for a comprehensive evaluation.
  • You are aware the child has one of the HHS-ECI automatically qualifying medical diagnoses likely to result in a delay.
  • You are aware the child has been diagnosed as having vision loss.
  • You are aware an audiologist has determined the child as being deaf or hard of hearing.

How can I submit a referral?

  • Complete the ECI Physician Referral Form (PDF) developed by ECI and the Texas Pediatric Society or call or fax information about your concerns to an ECI program in your area.
  • ECI staff provide services in all Texas counties. You can find a local program near you at https://citysearch.hhsc.state.tx.us/
    Note: ECI programs sometimes share geographical areas including counties, cities or ZIP codes. If your search for an ECI program shows more than one program, you can choose from any one of them for the referral. The receiving ECI will coordinate with the correct program to ensure your referral is addressed.
  • Ask the parent for their consent to allow the ECI program to release the outcome of the referral to you for care coordination, and provide that consent to the program.

Why should I use the ECI Physician Referral form?

The ECI Physician Referral form (PDF) simplifies the referral process and helps inform ECI programs about your concerns for the child you are referring. It also allows you to request the information you want from ECI by including the parent’s written consent directly on the form.

If the child has a diagnosis, hearing or vision loss, or if you have conducted any screenings, include this information. Providing results to ECI will help inform the evaluation process.

Note: There are three places where you need to get the parent or legal guardian’s written consent for the information you are requesting. ECI cannot send the information if you don’t include the needed signature.

What happens next?

If the child is eligible for services, the team, which includes the child’s parents, develop an initial Individualized Family Service Plan that incorporates the family’s priorities and goals for their child. The plan identifies services, how often they will be provided and who will deliver those services.

In ECI, the IFSP is reviewed at least every six months, annually or whenever the family, team member or child’s progress indicates a change in the plan might be needed.

How can I help inform families about ECI?

  • Inform the family why you are concerned about their child’s development.
  • Share with families they will actively participate in all aspects of ECI services.
  • Explain that services are provided to families of all income levels.
  • Clarify families are not obligated to accept services.
  • Advise families that ECI provides case management to help them connect to needed community and state resources.
  • Inform families that ECI will assist them in finding other needed services when their child transitions to other programs.
  • Tell families that ECI provides translation and interpreter services when English is not their primary language.

Are there additional resources available to me?

We have a variety of materials available for you to read, print or download and share with colleagues or families.

  • Learn how ECI can help the children in your health care practice by reading The Value of ECI (PDF).
  • You can order ECI publications at no charge via ECI’s online ordering system.
  • Watch our videos to see what families say about ECI and how our services have improved their lives.
  • Read our Annual Performance Report see how ECI is doing.
  • Visit our resource guide to learn more about resources available to assist professionals or families of children with developmental delays or disabilities.

Hear from your colleagues.
“The positive economic effect of front-end early intervention services has been clearly demonstrated. Short-term and longitudinal data (even into young adulthood) demonstrate the value of the early childhood intervention focusing on family-centered, coordinated services that support parent-child relationships as the core element of intervention.”

Richard C. Adams, MD
Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, Medical Director of Pediatric
Developmental Disabilities

Carl D. Tapia, MD, MPH, FAAP
Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital

The Council on Children with Disabilities

Milestones matter. Download the free CDC app to track your child's milestones.

Do you have questions about how your child under age 3 is growing or developing?

Visit the ECI Program Search page to find the local program in your area or call the HHS Office of the Ombudsman at 877-787-8999, select a language, then select Option 3.