Early Intervention Provides Critical Services to Utah's Children And Families

Utah families who have benefitted from early intervention (EI) services come from many different backgrounds, and their children have a variety of needs. But once they begin receiving services, they tell a similar story: while they may not have known how to help their child before connecting with a provider, they learned. And often they learned how to provide for their children after learning from the experts, using their own knowledge and items that could be found around the house. In that way, they were able to work with their own children and help them progress without needing to wait for the next appointment.

“It's been a huge blessing,” said Shelby Stanger, whose daughter, Claira, was born with a condition that causes stiff joints and weak muscles.  “We were able to have a physical therapist come in once or twice a month and teach us different stretches and things for Claira, to help her open up naturally and not have to do surgical intervention.”

Emma and Brad Anderson agreed: without early intervention specialists, they wouldn’t have known how or where to start. They knew their son Easton had been in the hospital a lot in his first months of life, but they didn’t know all the ways it affected his development. “When he was young, and he was going through his surgery and everything, he spent so much time just trying to heal and become healthy himself,” said Brad.

“He struggled with sitting for a long time,” Emma said. The specialist who came to their house converted a laundry basket so that he could sit while supported. They even looped a belt through the front so that Emma could pull Easton around the house. “It was fun for him. That was one of his favorite activities.” It also helped him gain the confidence and skill to sit more easily on his own.

Policy Briefs on the Critical Need for Investment in Utah's EI Programs

Unfortunately, Utah has fallen behind in its support of early intervention (see below). IDRPP has crafted two policy briefs to explain the nature and need of early intervention services. 

What is Early Intervention and Why is it Important

"IDEA Part C services, also known as the Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities, play a crucial role in providing developmental interventions and family-centered supports for infants and toddlers with disabilities or developmental delays. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that 1 in 6 children has a developmental delay or disability. Early Intervention programs provide evidence-based services to infants and toddlers using a family-centered model that builds the competency of parents to support the needs of their children. Services are tailored to each child's unique needs and encompass various disciplines, including Physical Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology, Occupational Therapy, Nursing, Social Work, Behavioral Specialists, Nutritional Specialists, and Developmental Therapy Specialists."

The Need for a Critical Investment in Utah's Children's Future

"Although Utah has historically been a model state for Early Intervention (EI), we have fallen behind over the past 5 years. IDEA requires that all eligible children receive evidence-based intervention within 90 days of being identified, but EI programs in Utah face significant challenges in identifying and serving all children because of insufficient funding and personnel shortages.

"National research suggests that the prevalence of children under age 3 whose development could improve with EI services is between 16% -18%, but only 3.7% of eligible Utah children under age 3 are served by the Baby Watch Early Intervention Program (BWEIP). The state of Utah funds BWEIP at a dismal rate of 1.7 hours of Early Intervention service per month per child, compared to the national average of 4.7 hours per month per child. Inadequate funding has also led to significant staffing shortages, below-market wages, insufficient professional development, reduced service frequency, and shorter duration of service visits, creating limitations on the scope of services provided to the child and family. "

IDRPP Session on Early Intervention: A Critical Investment In Utah's Children

Dr. Matthew Wappett and Dr. Curt Phillips of the Institute for Disability and Meghan Boyd of DDI Vantage offer a look at early intervention, the need for investment for early intervention in Utah, and the impact early intervention programs have on Utah families.

Additional Stories

The Acor Family

The Acor family talks about how early intervention in Utah exceeded expectations in helping their son succeed. "Early intervention took a lot of weight off of me, so that ... I don't have to anxiously spiral into research. I can focus on my kid, we can have fun, I can let go of some anxiety and know that I can rely on their support."

The doctor said, we don't know if she'll ever walk. We don't know if she'll ever talk.. [There were] so many things working against her development. I cannot imagine that she would be functioning like she does today... It's really scary to think how much of the doctor's predictions might have been true without targeted help."


The Downs Family

Downs family portrait

"As a first-time mom, I didn't know much, but I did know that it felt like my kid was harder than everyone else's. It wasn't until I called Up to 3 and had some home visits that I finally found some validation." Read Emily's story on our blog.

Dillon and Erica Lundahl describe the physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) Dillon had as a young child. These extensive therapies helped him use a walker and start school with more confidence--and gave Dillon a worker's mindset, right from his earliest years.