Referrals to Early Childhood Intervention Programs Plumet During COVID

New Hampshire Sees 400 Fewer Children Referred to Early Developmental Services Than Previous Year

Services and supports available to infants, toddlers and young children who experience developmental delays is called early intervention. These interventions can include different types of therapy including speech, occupational, physical and behavioral. For children under the age of three, these early services are provided for free throughout the fifty states. Unfortunately due to COVID, parents and their children have missed office visits with their pediatrician or engaged in telehealth visits where subtle signs of developmental delays or disabilities can be overlooked. A recent report from New Hampshire revealed that during 2020, the state had 400 fewer children referred to their early-intervention program than the year before. New Hampshire has not experienced a drop in referrals in over two decades. It is likely other states are experiencing the same drop. This troubling COVID outcome could have dire consequences for at-risk children who are losing valuable time while not receiving trajectory changing therapies. Early evaluations and subsequent treatment programs are key for better outcomes for children with special needs. However, all is not lost.  Even during COVID, there are ways to support young children with special needs. Early intervention programs in New Hampshire have utilized telehealth video conferencing to teach parents and caregivers techniques to play and interact with their children that will help their child’s development. This stop-gap may be a lifesaver for parents until in person therapies can be reinstated. 

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