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Early Intervention

Pennsylvania's Preschool Early Intervention (EI) Program serves over 50,000 children ages 3 to 5 years old who have disabilities and/or developmental delays.

What is Early Intervention?

  • Preschool for children ages 3-5 years who have developmental needs and/or disabilities
  • Administered by the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) through a collaborative effort between the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS)
  • Primarily funded through state allocations in the DHS budget (a portion is federally funded)
  • 80% of children in Preschool EI are served by intermediate units (IUs) who are contracted by OCDEL to provide EI services.
  • Mandated program for ALL preschool children with disabilities who seek them under state and federal law*

Services that may be offered in Early Intervention Programs:

  • Speech and Language Therapy
  • Behavior Plans and Modifications
  • Audiology Services
  • Special Education Instruction
  • Physical Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Autism Services
  • Psychological Evaluations

State and Federal law* requires Preschool Early Intervention providers to:

  • Proactively find children that might need EI services
  • Evaluate all children who might need EI services
  • Serve ALL children with qualifying delays and/or disabilities
  • Provide services at NO COST to children and/or families

Current Challenges Facing Preschool EI Programs

  • The number of services children require and receive has increased dramatically resulting in multiple high-cost services per child
  • Law requires providers to serve all children who qualify, even if the cost to serve the children exceeds the original funding allocation
  • Federal funds (School Based Access) that support the EI program have drastically decreased over the years
  • Program operational costs have increased (facilities, transportation, salaries, pension, inflation) over the years

What Needs to Happen

In order to continue to provide mandated services under IDEA* to our most vulnerable children, the legislature needs to fully fund Preschool Early Intervention services in the state budget each year, accounting for expected student needs and cost increases.

*Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); PA Act 212 of 1990

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