Information about Early Intervention (EI) and Early Childhood Special Education

Skills such as smiling at a familiar face, babbling, and throwing a ball show that your child is developing on track. Although kids develop skills at different times, there are some expected age ranges for reaching these goals. If you are concerned about your child’s development, there are a wide range of agencies that can answer your questions and provide your child with the early intervention or special education services to help them reach their full potential.

This page gives an overview of both Early Intervention (for children and babies younger than three years old) and Early Childhood Special Education (for children three to five years old). If you have more questions after looking at the information on this page and related links, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at or at 708-613-6122 ext. 8.

About Early Intervention

Early intervention is a term used to describe the services and supports that are available to babies and young children ages birth to three years old with developmental delays and disabilities and their families. It includes speech therapy, physical therapy and other types of services based on the needs of the child and family. The earlier you, your doctor, and your child care provider can identify the need for early intervention, the sooner your child can begin to address challenges and barriers to learning. Regular developmental screenings can help identify the need for early intervention.

If your child is under the age of three, and you have concerns after speaking to your child’s doctor, you may wish to contact your local Child and Family Connections (CFC) office directly. They can help determine if your child is eligible for early intervention services, and help you get those services. If you are an Oak Park resident, your Child and Family Connections Office is CFC 7. To find your local CFC office, visit our Developmental Referral and Services Directory and click on “Early Intervention.” Below are links to more helpful information about Early Intervention.

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) – An IFSP is a written legal document that lays out the supports and services kids with developmental delays need to start catching up. IFSPs are covered by special education law, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). They’re created for eligible kids from birth to age 3 who need extra help with physical, communication, self-help, cognitive, or social-emotional skills.  An IFSP outlines what families need to help kids with early intervention. An IFSP takes into account kids’ present level of functioning and needs. But because young children develop skills so quickly, it’s key for family members to be involved in supporting development. (This information about IFSPs comes from the non-profit, Understood)


About Early Childhood Special Education

Early childhood special education refers to services for children, three through five years of age with developmental delays or disabilities and their families. Services are provided through local school districts and special education cooperatives. If your child is three years or older, contact your local school district’s department of special education or student services. School districts in Forest Park, Oak Park, and River Forest provide screening to children over three in the areas of communication, social/emotional development, cognition, motor skills, hearing, and vision a regular basis, in compliance with federal law. Further evaluations are completed for children as determined by screening results.

The local school districts house early childhood programs for eligible children, age three and up, in at least one of their elementary schools.

Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a legal document that highlights a child’s strengths and challenges, and lays out a program of services, accommodations, and supports tailored to meet that child’s needs. An IEP is for people aged 3-21 years of age. In order for kids to receive special education services, they need an IEP. There’s a lot more to IEPs. If you think your child may have a disability and requires tailored support in the classroom, the first thing you will need to do is schedule a developmental screening with your local school district. Learn more about many aspects of early childhood special education below.


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We champion high-quality early childhood care and learning experiences and support for families so all children develop their full potential.