Skip Navigation
Patterns in the Identification of and Outcomes for Children and Youth With Disabilities
NCEE 2010-4005
January 2010

Key Findings for Infants and Toddlers Identified for Early Intervention Services Under IDEA

This section presents the main findings for infants and toddlers (ages birth through 2) who were identified for early intervention (EI) services under IDEA Part C.5 Results include the identification patterns, rates of loss of eligibility for EI services through declassification, and academic and developmental outcomes. Results on identification patterns are based on data from DANS and NVSS. Declassification information is based on data from NEILS and DANS. Outcomes analyses are based on data from NEILS, ECLS-K, NHIS, and NHES, and from NEILS reports.

Identification of Infants and Toddlers for Early Intervention Services Under IDEA

  • In 2006, the percentage of infants and toddlers identified for services under IDEA was 2.40 percent (n = 299,848), an increase from 1.65 percent (n = 192,469) in 1997.
  • Between 1997 and 2006, changes in the percentage of infants and toddlers served under IDEA varied by year of age. The percentage of children from birth through age 2 who were receiving early intervention nationally declined from 1997 to 1998 (1.65 percent to 1.57 percent) but then increased every year thereafter, reaching 2.40 percent in 2006. The greatest increase, from 2.42 percent in 1998 to 3.91 percent in 2006, was for 2-year-olds (see exhibit ES.2).
  • In 2005, the percentage of infants and toddlers identified for EI services under IDEA varied by race/ethnicity. Percentages ranged from 1.95 percent (Asian infants and toddlers) to 2.55 percent (White infants and toddlers). The percentages for American Indian, Black, and Hispanic infants and toddlers were 2.45 percent, 2.32 percent, and 2.09 percent, respectively.
  • From 1998 to 2005, the percentage of infants and toddlers identified for EI services under IDEA for all five race/ethnicity categories increased. The percentage of Black (1.66 percent to 2.32 percent), Hispanic (1.11 percent to 2.09 percent), Asian (1.18 percent to 1.95 percent), White (1.41 percent to 2.55 percent), and American Indian (1.81 percent to 2.45 percent) infants and toddlers identified for EI services nationally increased from 1998 to 2005 (percentage changes of 0.66, 0.98, 0.77, 1.14, and .64, respectively), with the percentages for White infants and toddlers showing the greatest change.
  • In 2006, states varied in the percentage of infants and toddlers identified for services under IDEA.The percentage of children identified for services ranged from 7.19 percent in Hawaii to 1.18 percent in Mississippi. In 2006, the percentage of children identified was higher than in 1997 for 47 states (the exceptions were Delaware, Florida, Mississippi, and Ohio). Fourteen of the 22 states with broad eligibility criteria had higher identification percentages than the national percentage, and 12 of the 16 states with narrow criteria had lower percentages than the national percentage.6

Exhibit ES.2. Trends in national percentage of infants and toddlers identified for early intervention services under IDEA, by age (1997–2006)

Declassification of Infants and Toddlers Who Had Been Identified for Early Intervention Services Under IDEA

  • A longitudinal study of infants and toddlers who were identified for the first time for EI services in 1997–1998 found that 18 percent exited, i.e. left the EI system, before reaching the age limit of 36 months for EI services. These children exited early intervention for various reasons, such as meeting all their developmental goals and losing eligibility because of developmental progress or parents' choosing to withdraw from services.
  • Nationally, of all infants and toddlers identified for services under IDEA who exited early intervention at 36 months from 2005 to 2006, 66 percent were reported by states to have been eligible for Part B, Section 619, preschool services (see exhibit ES.3). The percentage of children receiving EI services at 36 months who were then eligible for Part B services ranged from 100 percent in Minnesota to 10 percent in the District of Columbia.

Exhibit ES.3. National percentage of children no longer receiving early intervention services under IDEA at 36 months of age, by exit category (2005–2006)

Outcomes for Infants and Toddlers Identified for Services under IDEA

The NEILS dataset can be used to describe outcomes for children who received EI services nationally. NEILS outcome data collection included parent-reported information at 36 months of age and parent- and teacher-reported information in kindergarten. Information was collected from both parents and teachers as to whether or not children had been identified for services under Part B IDEA in kindergarten. Overall, 55 percent of former EI participants were identified for special education services in kindergarten (i.e., had Individualized Education Programs). This section highlights children's outcomes at 36 months of age (based on parent report) and in kindergarten (based on teacher and parent reports) across five developmental domains (communication, cognition, social emotional, physical and adaptive development). Most of the findings are based on items in the NEILS parent interviews and teacher survey that were developed for the study, including items that asked parents and teachers to report on the child's level of accomplishment across developmental milestones and the child's skill level compared to other children the same age. Some items were taken from protocols developed for other studies so the information could be compared to the general population (defined as including both children receiving and not receiving EI or special education services).

Key findings highlight overall outcomes for children identified for EI services under IDEA. Where applicable, outcome data were compared with general population data on 3- and 5-year olds from the public use datasets of the following sources: National Household Education Survey (NHES), Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), and the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) datasets. Additional findings highlight outcomes by Part C eligibility category7 and comparisons of kindergarten outcomes for former EI participants with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and without IEPs.

  • On outcomes for all five domains (communication, cognitive, social-emotional, physical development, and adaptive skills), children identified for EI services demonstrated skills at lower levels than expected for their age at both 36 months and kindergarten. For example, at age 36 months, 42 percent (standard error (SE) = 1.39) of EI participants were reported by parents to communicate their needs as well as other children their age. At kindergarten, 37 percent of former EI participants (SE = 2.02) were reported by their parents to have mastered all communication milestones expected of a 5-year-old (see exhibit ES.4).

Exhibit ES.4. Parent and teacher reported communication outcomes at 36 months of age and kindergarten for former EI participants

  • For the parent-reported measures of early literacy and mathematics skills, former EI participants demonstrated significantly lower skills than the general population of 3-year-olds. When children were 36 months of age, parents reported that 17 percent (SE = 1.13) of former EI participants could recognize most or all letters of the alphabet, whereas parents of 37 percent (SE = 1.41) of children in the general population8 reported that their children could do so (p < .001) (see exhibit ES.5). Thirteen percent (SE = 1.38) of former EI participants were reported to be able to count to 20 or higher, whereas 41 percent (SE = 1.43) of children in the general population were reported to be able to (p < .001).
  • At both 36 months and kindergarten, children eligible because of a risk condition were reported by parents and teachers to have higher skills in all five domains— communication, cognitive, social-emotional, physical development, and adaptive skills—compared with children with a diagnosed condition. For example, 33 percent (SE = 3.78) of children with a risk condition at entry to early intervention and 31 percent (SE = 7.01) of those with a developmental delay were reported by parents to have mastered all age-expected physical milestones at 36 months, compared with 15 percent (SE = 1.57) of those with a diagnosed condition (p < .001 for both comparisons). At kindergarten, the pattern was similar: 28 percent (SE = 4.55) of children with an at-risk classification at entry into early intervention and 24 percent (SE = 2.89) of those with developmental delays were reported to have mastered all their kindergarten milestones, compared with 10 percent (SE = 1.95) of children with a diagnosed condition (p < .001 for both comparisons).

Exhibit ES.5. National percentage of former EI participants and of the general population for whom parents reported cognitive outcomes at 36 months and in kindergarten

  • Teachers' reports of seven mathematics and nine early literacy skills at kindergarten indicated that larger percentages of former EI participants without IEPs than those with IEPs performed at age-expected levels and at levels comparable to the general population. For example, in mathematics, 16 percent (SE = 1.47) of former EI participants with IEPs were reported to use a variety of strategies to solve mathematics problems, compared with 49 percent (SE = 2.25) of children without IEPs (p < .001) and 46 percent (SE = 0.89) of children in the general population (p < .001). In early literacy, 11 percent (SE = 1.28) of former EI participants with IEPs were reported to be able to compose simple stories, according to their kindergarten teachers, compared with 31 percent (SE = 1.58) of children without IEPs (p < .001) and 32 percent (SE = 0.81) of children in the general population (p < .001).

Top

5 Identification percentages in this section were computed for each year using the number of infants and toddlers identified under Part C (DANS) as a percentage of the total population of infants and toddlers (NVSS). NVSS birth data were used to create a proxy for the total number of infants and toddlers birth through age 2 in the population. Percentages were computed for each age year and race/ethnicity category using the same data sources.

6 Eligibility varies throughout the country for Part C services, with states identified by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) as having "broad," "moderate," and "narrow" eligibility criteria. The criteria is based upon averaging descriptors (percent delay, age/month delay, standard deviation, and undefined variable related to if a state serves at-risk) in states' eligibility definitions (Mackey Andrews and Taylor 2007.

7 IDEA Part C eligibility categories include developmental delay, diagnosed condition, at risk for delay. According to the federal regulations for IDEA, 34 C.F.R. 303.16(a), " . . . infants and toddlers with disabilities means individuals from birth through age two who need early intervention services because they--1) Are experiencing developmental delays, as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures, in one or more of the following areas: (i) Cognitive development. (ii) Physical development, including vision and hearing. (iii) Communication development. (iv) Social or emotional development. (v) Adaptive development; or 2) Have a diagnosed physical or mental condition that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay. (b) The term may also include, at a State's discretion, children from birth through age two who are at risk of having substantial developmental delays if early intervention services are not provided."

8 General population statistics are based on data from the National Household Education Survey (NHES).