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Advancing the Human & Civil Rights of People with Disabilities in Illinois



What is Early Intervention (EI)?

  • A program for children under 3.
  • For children who have developmental delays, disabilities, or are in at-risk conditions for developmental delays.
  • At no charge, the EI program will test infants and toddlers to see if they have a delay in movement, learning, dealing with others, behavior, or self-help skills.
  •  EI may help provide your child the best start in life, prevent or reduce the need for more intervention in the future, and reduce related costs.

Who is eligible for EI?

 Children under the age of 3 who:

  • Are experiencing developmental delays in any of the following areas:
    • Cognitive development (learning)
    • Physical development, including vision and hearing
    • Language and speech development
    • Social or emotional development (behavior)
    • Adaptive development (use of existing skills)
    • Have been diagnosed with certain physical or mental conditions (such as cerebral palsy or Down syndrome)[1] [Paul: First footnote I’ve seen. Delete?]
    • Have certain family circumstances that put them at risk of substantial delays, such as:
      • A parent diagnosed with a developmental disability
      • A parent diagnosed with a severe mental disorder
      • Any three of the following:
        • Primary caregiver abuses alcohol or other substances
        • Primary caregiver is younger than 15
        • Child is homeless
        • Chronic illness of the primary caregiver
        • Mother abused alcohol or other substances during pregnancy
        • Primary caregiver has an education level less than the 10th grade, unless that level is appropriate to the primary caregiver’s age
        • Evidence of abuse or neglect and the child has not been removed from those circumstances 

Flow chart of the process

  1. REFERRAL to Child and Family Connections (CFC) office
  2. INTAKE completed by a CFC service coordinator
  3. EVALUATION (to determine eligibility) and ASSESSMENT
  4. DEVELOPMENT of an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)
  5. PARENT CONSENT for services
  7. IFSP REVIEW every six months or more frequently, if needed
  8. TRANSITION to a program for 3- to 5-year-old children 

What services are offered?

  • Assistive technology devices and services
  • Early identification screening and assessment
  • Family training, counseling and home visits
  • Health services necessary to enable the infant or toddler to benefit from the other early intervention services
  • Medical services (only for diagnosis or evaluation)
  • Nursing services
  • Nutrition services
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Psychological services
  • Service coordination
  • Social work services
  • Special instruction/developmental therapy
  • Speech language pathology and audiology
  • Transportation and related costs
  • Vision services 

Who provides the services?

Early Intervention services are available through providers who have met state qualification requirements and service standards.  Examples include the following:

  • Special educators  (developmental therapists)
  • Speech/language pathologists and audiologists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Physical therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Social workers
  • Nurses
  • Dietitian nutritionists
  • Family therapists
  • Orientation and mobility specialists
  • Pediatricians and other physicians
  • Optometrists 

Who pays for the services?

Services are paid for with a combination of government and family resources.  The cost of evaluation, assessment and development of a service plan, and the cost of service coordination, are paid by the program and provided to families at no cost.  Ongoing Early Intervention services are paid for by the family’s health insurance, when appropriate, government insurance (AllKids), and EI program funds.  Your family contribution is based on your income. 

How do I learn more about Early Intervention?

Children and families access the Early Intervention service system through one of 25 regional Child and Family Connections (CFCs).  To find a local CFC, call 800-323-4769.


For more detailed information, click on the Early Intervention fact sheet.

[1] See

Last updated: August 03, 2018

This website is made possible by funding support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, both the Administration on Developmental Disabilities and the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of Equip for Equality and do not necessarily represent the official view of any of these agencies.

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