Early childhood intervention specialists work with very young children and their parents to provide assistance to those with delayed development. The children who receive the services of early childhood intervention specialists tend to have more severe developmental delays when compared to those whose problems are identified later on.
In most cases, early intervention specialists will target children in the 0 to three age group who are considered to be at risk. They may work in the preschool classroom, but most provide individual services to children within the child’s home. The focus of these services is therefore usually more on developmental issues than academic ones. They may face significantly slower physical, speech and behavioral development when compared to their peers.
Reasons to Become an Intervention Specialist
Early intervention is essential for children with developmental issues. According to research, disabilities do not simply go away with age. Children who fall behind with usually not catch up with their peers unless they get help. Early intervention specialists can help to lower the severity of developmental issues and help to mitigate the risks that come with disabilities.
The first step towards a career as an intervention specialist should be to earn a bachelor’s degree in special education. As a part of the coursework in a bachelor’s degree program, the student may take classes that cover areas such as:
• Developmental goals
• Educational assessments
• Disabilities that very young children may experience
Supplemental coursework related to speech and occupational therapy may be helpful if they want to move into other areas of specialization further on in their careers.
Master’s Degree with a Concentration in Early Childhood Intervention
After graduating from a bachelor’s program, the individual who wants a graduate level education can earn a master’s degree with a concentration in early childhood intervention. While it is possible to find schools throughout the country that offer programs for early interventions specialists, it will be a part of an early childhood degree in most cases. Those who have the goal of becoming an early intervention specialist should make sure that they take courses that deal with issues such as:
• Speech therapy
• Physical therapy
• Assessing young children
• Risk factors in special needs children
In most states, it will be necessary to have a license in order to work as an early intervention specialist. Usually, this licensing requirement is fulfilled by going through the state’s education department. This will be especially necessary if the intervention specialist intends to work in public schools. The licensing requirements differ significantly depending on the state, but coursework and experience related to special education will be necessary in most places.
Early Intervention Sub-Specialties
Even though those who provide early intervention services are already specialists, it is possible for them to specialize their career path even further. Early intervention specialists may focus their services on children with disorders on the autism spectrum who need communication and behavioral support. Similarly, they may get additional certifications in areas like sign language and physical therapy.
Career Opportunities and Salary
Along with being an early intervention specialist, the career options for individuals with early intervention credentials include:
Special Education Teacher
Special education teachers have a significant impact on the lives of developmentally challenged children by helping to meet their unique social, emotional and educational needs. The students they help may have cognitive impairments ranging from mild to severe while others may have learning disabilities that require the adoption of special teaching strategies. Those teaching strategies can include modifications to the general curriculum. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the median wage for teachers in the special education field (including early intervention specialists) was $55,060 in 2012. The lowest-paid group of special education teachers earned less than $36,740 while the top 10 percent earned more than $87,390.
Adapted Physical Education Teacher
These teachers provide disabled students with activities like games and sports suited to their limitations. The students they work with may not be able to participate in a standard course of physical education. They teach children who are at various skill levels and may make changes to the curriculum to fit each student’s needs. Equipment or the rules of games may also be changed to suit specific needs. The median pay for kindergarten and elementary school teachers was $53,090 in 2012, according to the BLS. The lowest-earning teachers made less than $32,450 while the highest earning ones made over $78,230.
By working with a student as well as with their parents and teachers, a school counselor can help to ensure that their emotional and academic needs are being met. School counselors are often expected to solve problems and will work with all students, whether or not they are disabled. According to the BLS, the median wage for school counselors in 2012 was $53, 610. The earnings of the lowest-paid 10 percent were below $31,920 and the highest paid made more than $86,680.
Occupational therapists help others to participate in daily life activities. In a school environment, they help children to prepare for and to perform educational activities. Occupational therapists will work with children from 3 to 21 years of age to help them to achieve their academic and nonacademic goals. Their tasks include observing a student’s engagement in activities and providing strategies to help them to participate more fully. They will also help to remove barriers that hamper students’ access to or progress in school activities. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for occupational therapists was $75,400 in 2012, with the lowest-earning 10 percent taking home $50,500 and the top 10 percent earning over $107, 070.
The projected growth for teachers in the special education field is 6 percent over the years between 2012 and 2022. The current need for early intervention specialists is great. The current laws make their services essential thus opening up a variety of jobs. It is expected that the current present need for early intervention specialists will continue with jobs being provided by agencies, state-specific organizations along with public school systems.
The Daily Life of an Early Intervention Specialist
Intervention specialists spend much of their time making home visits because research has shown that the progress younger children make tends to be greater when they are in their own homes. The following is an example of an early intervention specialist’s daily schedule:
The intervention specialist travels to the home of a 4-year-old with an autism spectrum disorder that is causing the child to have difficulty communicating. They will utilize learning games and tablet apps to help improve communication skills. The child’s parents will participate in the lesson so that they can continue teaching the child even when the teacher is not there.
Next, the intervention specialist travels to the home of a 2-year-old with significant cognitive development issues. They will help the child to achieve certain developmental goals like grasping objects and mobility as well as to eat. They will also advise the parent on any areas they may be concerned about in addition to instructing them on how to teach the child when the intervention specialist is not present.
The early intervention specialist will then travel to the home of a 4-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome which has resulted in the child having behavioral difficulties. The specialist will work with the child’s parents to help with the elimination of these problems and to provide alternative behaviors that can enable the child to interact with others more appropriately.
They will travel to the home of a new child in order to assess them. The child may have been referred by a psychologist, pediatrician or by their school district. They will utilize assessments appropriate to the child’s age and determine if there are any behavioral, communication or development goals that are to be addressed. Findings from the assessment will be communicated in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting.
The intervention specialist will attend an IEP meeting. They will meet with parents for a discussion of their child’s progress and milestones. They will also draft an IEP for the upcoming year and sign it.
They will handle administrative tasks and compose documents for future IEPs. They may also write reports on assessments, make notes on the goals of students and update them along with communicating with parents and other specialists. Staff meetings and training sessions may also take place at this point in the day.