Why is early intervention important?

Research indicates that brain development is most influenced in the first three years of life.

Early childhood impacts later success.

A child’s brain will grow the most during the first five years of life, reaching 90% of its final size. Seven hundred new neural connections are made per second. These neural connections build a child’s brain architecture that is heavily influenced by the “serve and return” experiences they have with their primary caregivers and social environment.

Children’s social, emotional and physical health is essential for school readiness, academic success, and overall well-being.

When young children do not achieve the milestones linked to healthy development, they are at risk to do poorly in the early school years, putting them at increased risk for school failure, juvenile delinquency, adult mental health concerns and other problems.

Intervention is more effective and less costly when provided earlier rather than later in life.

High quality early intervention services can change a child’s developmental trajectory and improve outcomes for children, families, and communities.

What is Early ACCESS?

Early ACCESS is a statewide early intervention system of services for families with children birth to three years of age that are not developing as expected.

Early ACCESS services are provided at no cost and is a voluntary program.

Read this one page handout for families (Spanish version of the handout) or Watch this video to learn more about early intervention in Iowa.







Read More about Early ACCESS Vision, Mission and Principles

Early ACCESS Eligibility

Before you can participate in Early ACCESS, your child must be determined eligible.

Early ACCESS is for children birth to three years of age.

In Iowa, children with certain diagnosed conditions are automatically eligible for Early ACCESS.

An evaluation may be completed by Early ACCESS to determine eligibility. A child is eligible for Early ACCESS if they have a 25% delay in one or more areas of development.  Areas include: talking, moving, seeing, listening, thinking, eating, or playing.  The evaluation uses information obtained from many sources, including information from you, an evaluation tool, observations of your child and review of your child’s medical records.

Learn More about Early ACCESS eligibility

Early ACCESS Roles

Every family in Early ACCESS will work with a service coordinator. As your main contact for Early ACCESS they will:

  • Communicate with the team to coordinate evaluations, assessments, team meetings and the development of the Individualized Family Service Plan.
  • Partner with you to identify the appropriate services, resources, and supports necessary to benefit the development of your child.

Early ACCESS service providers coach you, so you can help your child. They will:

  • Help you identify your family’s daily routines, priorities, and needs for your child to establish goals that are important for your family.
  • Plan and practice interventions that can be used by you and/or other caregivers throughout the day in your child and family’s routines and activities.

You play a critical role in your child’s development. As part of the team you will:

  • Be involved in the visits with your service provider so that you can learn how to support your child’s development.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to practice new skills everyday during your family routines and activities.

Learn More about coaching in Early ACCESS

What to Expect in Early ACCESS

This 10-minute video, shows Early ACCESS service provider, Peg, on a home visit with Kiya and her father, Kris.  In addition, this handout describes what you can do during your home visits with Early ACCESS to get the most out of the visit.


If your child is eligible for Early ACCESS, child and family assessments will be completed to learn about your child and what you would like your child to be able to do.

  • During the child assessment, the team will learn more about your child’s interests and abilities.
  • The family assessment is a way for the team to learn about your family’s routines; what goals you have for your child; supports your family may be interested in to help your child develop and grow.

Individualized Family Service Plan

The Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is developed by the IFSP team, which consists of a service coordinator, service provider(s), and your family.  Information obtained during the eligibility and assessment processes is used to develop the outcomes/goals you would like your child and family to reach while participating in Early ACCESS.

  • The IFSP is written within 45 calendar days, unless it is not feasible to do so, from the date the child was referred to Early ACCESS.
  • The IFSP contains outcomes based on what you want your child or family to be able to do within the family’s routines and activities. The outcomes should focus on what is important to your family.
  • The IFSP identifies which service or services will be needed to help you meet the outcomes and when, where, and how those services will be provided.

Learn More about IFSP’s

Delivery of Early ACCESS Service(s)

Once the IFSP is complete and you provide consent, early intervention service(s) can begin.

  • The early intervention service(s) listed in your child’s IFSP must begin within 30 days from when you signed the consent for the service(s).
  • Services are provided in the child’s natural environment. This means we provide services in your home or other familiar places you and your child spend time.
  • Early ACCESS services are provided until a child’s third birthday, unless your child is no longer eligible or there is no longer a need for early intervention services.

Your Early ACCESS provider might ask to record your home visit.  Providers record visits to help them learn. The videos may also be used during your home visit as a way to see what worked, problem solve, and to help you remember what happened so you can repeat it when your provider is not there. Here is a handout to describe the purpose of recording.

View More videos of Early ACCESS visits

Early ACCESS Family Information

What parents are saying…

I just really love coaching because she shows you multiple times and I always feel confident when she
leaves that I’m doing it right and, and every day after that until she comes again I’m like, I don’t second guess myself.

I’m with my child 24/7 and with the proper coaching, I can do the same things all the time. Makes a big difference. I’m the one who’s going to make the biggest difference and this is something that him and I have to work on together.”

This video features an Iowa parent sharing why early intervention was helpful to her family.

Early ACCESS Family Survey

Every year Early ACCESS surveys families who participated in the program to gather information from families on how we have helped their family.  Read our most recent Early ACCESS Family Survey results here.

Parent Rights in Early ACCESS

As a parent, you and your child have rights.  We refer to parent rights as procedural safeguards.  The procedural safeguards apply to every aspect of the early intervention process, such as evaluation, access to records, and Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP) team participation.  For example, you have the right to disagree with the results of the Early ACCESS evaluation that determined that your child was not eligible for services.  Or, if you are not receiving services as outlined in your IFSP, there are options for addressing that issue.

Learn More about Procedural Safeguards and Parent Rights in Early ACCESS

Communication with Early ACCESS

There are many ways you can contact Early ACCESS with questions or concerns:

  1. If you are currently involved with Early ACCESS you can reach out to your assigned Service Coordinator.
  2. If you are not enrolled in Early ACCESS or you need to talk with someone other than your Service Coordinator you can contact a liaison found on this list Early ACCESS Contacts or use the tool to find your local AEA below and ask to speak to Early ACCESS Liaison.
  3. If you have a question or another issue, submit a request for services by clicking on the yellow button and completing the form.
  4. You can also call the Iowa Family Support Network Phone: 1-888-425-4371 or send an e-mail: iafamilysupportnetwork@everystep.org

Collaboration with Community Partners & Providers

Early ACCESS is not intended to be a stand-alone program. Your child may need additional supports and services from other providers. One goal of Early ACCESS is to build partnerships with programs in health, education, human services, and developmental disabilities.

In order to coordinate care for your child and family, Early ACCESS may need to communicate with others and share information about your child’s involvement with Early ACCESS. Early ACCESS will ask you to sign a Consent to Release and Exchange Information form, this form gives Early ACCESS permission to talk to other providers that work with your family, which is helpful in coordinating care for your child.

Early ACCESS Research

Research on child development grows rapidly each year. With each new study, parents and professionals understand children better and learn how to teach them more appropriately. The studies listed below highlight areas of current research from Iowa’s own research laboratories. Contact the research laboratories directly for specific information about findings from the studies.

Family Experiences During Pregnancy

Researchers from Hunter College, City University of New York and the University of North Carolina, Charlotte are looking to understand families’ experiences during pregnancy when they have a diagnosis that made them eligible for early intervention for infants and toddlers with or at risk for developmental delays or disabilities. We want to understand how early intervention programs might help families during pregnancy.

What Will We Do?
You will be asked a series of questions during a 45-60 minute interview. We will ask you about:

  • What helped you during your pregnancy
  • What else you might have wanted
  • How you think early intervention could help

Who Can Participate?
Families who:

  • Are 18 years of age or older
  • Have a child 8 years old or younger
  • Were eligible for the Early Intervention program based on that child’s diagnosis and
  • Knew that diagnosis during pregnancy

How Can I Participate?
Contact one of the following researchers leading the project:
Dr. Bonnie Keilty, Hunter College Email: bkeilty@hunter.cuny.edu Phone: 212-772-4709
Dr. JaneDiane Smith, University of North Carolina, Charlotte Email: jdianesm@uncc.edu Phone: 704-687-8850

Spence Laboratories

Department of Psychology: University of Iowa

This study examines the relationship between brain development and how children think using behavioral and brain measures. The study hopes to develop understanding of the brain changes that underlie aspects of development from infancy into early childhood, including key changes in perceptual development, language development, and decision-making abilities.

Age: Children who are 3.5 years old (+/-3 weeks) or 4.5 years old (+/-3 weeks)
Activity: Decision making task comparing differences in simple pictures. The researchers will track the child’s brain response through looking and pointing movements.

The InCoDe Lab

Department of Psychology: University of Iowa

This study examines how babies communicate and learn language. The study will work with monolingual English-speaking children with normal speech and hearing development.

Age: 14-24 month old babies
Activity: Babies will be shown a variety of toys to see how the infant communicates. After the interaction, the child may be shown the toys that she or he just saw, and may be asked some questions about those toys.

University of Iowa

Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

Researchers study children throughout the state of Iowa ages 4-9 that have difficulty with past tense ‘ed’ verbs. The study tests the efficacy of two different generally accepted ways of providing treatment for this disorder.

Age: Children with language impairment who are between 4 years old and 9 years old
Activity: 12 week intervention and therapy which tests ways to teach children grammar

The ACE Study

Between 1995-1997, a survey was taken by adult members of a group health insurance plan, the Kaiser Health Plan in San Diego, CA. Investigators Dr. Vincent Felitti (founder and chief of Kaiser Permanente’s Preventive Medicine Department) and Dr. Robert Anda (CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service) confirmed their suspected link between what’s now known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and later behaviors and health outcomes.

It was the largest study ever done looking at short- and long-term impacts of childhood trauma. The study links childhood trauma with the adoption of serious health, social, and economic risks. It is now known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.

Iowa is one of 19 states now measuring ACE data.

Results from the initial ACEs Study influenced many Iowa organizations, including Mid Iowa Health Foundation, the United Way of Central Iowa, the Iowa Department of Public Health, as well as many others, to form a taskforce (Iowa ACEs 360) and eventually implement an ACEs Study in Iowa. The study was initiated in 2012 as part of the annual Iowa Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

Check out the results of the survey at Iowa ACEs 360.

If you know of additional studies highlighting child development or developmental disabilities in children, please contact Meghan Miller at meghan.m.miller@hhs.iowa.gov


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