Early Intervention

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute & Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts

If your baby is not meeting milestones for their age and you are worried about their development, talk to your pediatrician.

If you live in Massachusetts, your baby may qualify for Massachusetts Early Intervention (EI), if they are under 3 years old and they:

  • are not reaching age-appropriate milestones,
  • are diagnosed with certain conditions,
  • have developmental delays, or
  • have a medical or social history that may put them at risk for a developmental delay.

Massachusetts EI is free. All your costs are covered.

What is Early Intervention (EI)?

Early Intervention offers services from experts like speech and occupational therapists to help your child:

  • interact with their peers,
  • build relationships,
  • gain knowledge and skills,
  • use appropriate behaviors to meet their needs, and
  • develop independence.

Early Intervention also helps families:

  • learn about their rights,
  • communicate their child’s needs, and
  • help their children develop and learn.
How can I get EI?

Your pediatrician can refer you to EI, or you can call yourself.

After you get referred to an EI program, they give your child a developmental assessment (test). If they find your child is eligible for EI, they have 45 days to write an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) for your child and meet with you to discuss it.

The IFSP describes the support and services your child should get from EI. An IFSP can support your child’s needs outside of school and support your family’s needs.

What happens when my child turns 3 and EI services end?

Early Intervention services end when your child turns 3. But your child may still need special education services. If they still need services, they may be able to get Early Childhood Special Education (“ECSE”).

When your child turns 2 years 3 months, ask the EI agency about the plan for when your child turns 3.

By the time your child is 2 years 9 months, the EI program should have told your school district that your child needs an evaluation.

Flowchart of Early Intervention for children. Children in Early Invention go up to age 2 and 1/2. 6 months before age 3 Early Intervention refers the child to the public school system, going to 45 days from referral IEP meeting. Between 9 months and 90 days before age 3 is "Transitional Planning Meeting". Services begin at age 3.

Before your child is 3, you may have 3 meetings about your child’s needs:

  1. A Transition Planning Conference (“TPC”) to discuss a plan for when your child turns 3 and EI ends.
  2. A meeting with the school after they get your child’s evaluations. The meeting is to decide if your child qualifies for special education. EI agency staff attends this meeting also.
  3. Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”) meeting if your child qualifies.

Leaving the Early Intervention program

The EI agency meets with you and a representative from your public school. You discuss the services your child has been getting and options for when they turn 3 and move on from EI. The meeting is a Transition Planning Conference (“TPC”).

What is Early Childhood Special Education?

When the school gets the referral from the EI agency, they must evaluate your child. After the evaluation, the school meets with you and EI staff to decide if your child qualifies for special education. EI program staff should attend this meeting. They can tell the school district about your child's development, the services they received, and their current needs. 

If your child qualifies for special education, the school will have an IEP team meeting. The school district can provide services through an IEP in your child’s first year of school.


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