Who is Eligible for the Early Intervention Program?


Children are eligible for the Early Intervention Program if they are under three years old AND have a disability OR developmental delay. A disability means that a child has a diagnosed physical or mental condition that often leads to problems in development (such as Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, vision impairment, hearing impairment). A developmental delay means that a child is behind in at least one area of development, including:

  • Physical development (growth, gross and fine motor abilities).
  • Cognitive development (learning and thinking).
  • Communication (understanding and using words).
  • Social-emotional development (relating to others).
  • Adaptive development (self-help skills, such as feeding).

Your child does not need to be a U.S. citizen to be eligible for services. And, there is no income "test" for the program. You and your child do have to be residents of New York State to participate in the Early Intervention Program.


New York State's Definition of Developmental Delay

Developmental delay means that a child has not attained developmental milestones expected for the child's age adjusted for prematurity in one or more of the following areas of development: cognitive, physical (including vision and hearing), communication, social-emotional, or adaptive development.

For the purposes of the Early Intervention Program, a developmental delay is a delay that has been measured by qualified personnel using informed clinical opinion, appropriate diagnostic procedures, and/or instruments, and documented as:

  • A 12-month delay in one functional area; or
  • A 33% delay in one functional area or a 25% delay in each of two areas; or
  • If appropriate, standardized instruments are individually administered in the evaluation, a score of at least 2.0 standard deviation below the mean in one functional area or a score of at least 1.5 standard deviation below the mean in each of two functional areas.
How is eligibility decided?

All children referred to the Early Intervention Official have the right to a free multidisciplinary evaluation to find out if they are eligible for services. The multidisciplinary evaluation will also help you to better understand your child's strengths and needs and how early intervention can help.

A child who is referred because of a diagnosed condition that often leads to developmental delay – like Down syndrome – will always be eligible for early intervention services. If your child has a diagnosed condition, your child will still need a multidisciplinary evaluation to help plan for services.

If your child has a delay in development –and no diagnosed condition – the multidisciplinary evaluation is needed to find out if your child is eligible for the Early Intervention Program. Your child's development will be measured according to the "definition of developmental delay" set by New York State.

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