A Parent’s Dictionary: Early Intervention ABC’s

Adapted from Michigan Early Intervention System, A Parent’s Dictionary: Early Intervention A-Z


Adaptive – Self-help skills used in daily life, such as feeding, toileting, dressing

Advocacy – Supporting/defending a child’s interests and rights

Assessment – Procedures to evaluate and identify the child’s unique needs and strengths, family resources and concerns, connection between evaluation procedures and the services needed to address those needs

Assistive Technology – Equipment to improve/maintain the abilities of the child

At Risk – Children who may, in the future, have problems in learning or development

Audiology – Finding/preventing hearing loss


Baseline – The first measurement of a function that is later compared to one in the future


Cognitive – The process of remembering, reasoning, understanding, and making decisions

Confidentiality – The right to privacy of information about the child and family; not released without parent consent

Consent – Parent approval in writing which is always voluntary and may be revoked at any time.

Counseling – Advice given by someone qualified to give it


Developmental – Referring to one of the four stages of child development

Developmental delay – When a child does not attain the expected level of development based on age

Disability – A delay or condition likely to result in a developmental delay

Due Process – Procedures to protect a person’s rights, including confidentiality and consent

Dominant language – The first language the family normally uses


Early Intervention Services – Services described in the IFSP, provided by qualified personnel, provided with parent consent and in the natural environment to the maximum extent.

Eligibility Requirements – Legal requirements a child meets to receive early intervention services, including whether they have a disability or developmental delay

Evaluation – Testing to determine if the child meets eligibility requirements


Family concerns – Parent input about needs and issues to be addressed in the IFSP

Family Resources – Strengths, abilities and supports used to address the desired outcome for the child

Family training – Services to assist the family in understanding and addressing their child’s special needs


Health Services – Health related services to help a child benefit from early Intervention

Home visits – When a professional visits the home to plan and provide early intervention services


IFSP – Individualized Family Service Plan, services written and developed by family and professionals to meet the child’s special needs

Impartial hearing – A formal process, similar to a lawsuit, to resolve a dispute between the parent and the agency paying for the services.


Lead agency – The state agency with the legal power and responsibility to implement a statewide early intervention system.


Mediation – A way to resolve a dispute without litigation

Multidisciplinary – When two or more professionals with different areas of training evaluate the child and develop the IFSP


Natural environment – Normal settings for young children without disabilities,including the home, child care setting, or other community settings

Nursing services – Evaluation of the health status of the child and providing nursing care to prevent health problems and restore and improve functioning through a licensed physician’s prescription.

Nutritional services – Identifying feeding skills, problems, food habits and food preferences


Occupational therapy – Services relating to self-help skills, adaptive behavior and play, and sensory, motor and postural development

Outcomes – The section of the IFSP that states the changes expected to be seen as the result of the child getting services


Parent – A parent/person in a parental relationship to a child

Personally identifiable information – Family names, social security numbers, addresses and other information that are private and not to be released without parent consent

Physical Therapy – Services to prevent/lessen movement difficulties and related functional problems

Placement – The place where the services are delivered, preferably in a natural setting

Psychological Services – Giving and interpreting psychological tests, planning services including counseling, consultation, parent training and education programs


Qualified personnel – Personnel who provide services within the limits of their licensure, certification or registration.


Respite – Temporary child care made available to families of children with disabilities


Screening- – A brief process to assess the child’s status to see if further testing is warranted

Service Coordinator – A representative of the agency providing services who works in partnership with the family to coordinate services and obtain services in the IFSP Social work services- An assessment of the child’s and family’s social and emotional Needs, and providing services to meet those needs

Special instruction – Includes designing learning environments and activities to promote the child’s development

Special Needs – Term used to describe a child with a disability

Speech-Language Pathology – Services in communication skills or with motor skills as weakness of muscles around the mouth or swallowing

Surrogate parent – A person appointed to act in place of the parent when the parent is not available


Transition – The process beginning at age 2 ½ where children at age 3 move from Early Intervention to the Preschool Special Education Program in the local school district

Transportation – The agency providing services pays for the cost of travel to enable a child to receive early intervention services


Vision services – Identification and provision of services to children with visual Disorders

(NOTE: The Michigan version of this dictionary is found at, which was adapted from the State of New York’s Parent Dictionary).