The Early Intervention program, used by Arkansas Children’s supports children (birth to 36 months) with confirmed, suspected, or anticipated delay in development. This program provides resources to assist parents and caregivers with their child’s development and is made available through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C.

In Arkansas, the early intervention program is called First Connections. This free program focuses to promote the child’s ability to participate in typical home and community activities. Goals of the program are to:

  • Help families know their rights under IDEA.
  • Help families advocate for their child and communicate their child’s abilities and additional needs.
  • Help families assist their children with development and learning.
  • Ensure children have positive relationships as well as social and emotional development.
  • Ensure children can acquire and use knowledge and skills.
  • Ensure children can use age-appropriate behavior to meet their needs.

How are children evaluated for this program?

A service coordinator from the Department of Human Services will receive a child‘s information and reach out to the family. For families who choose to participate in the early intervention, the family’s service coordinator provides them with a list of Part C developmental therapy providers in the area in which they live. The family can then choose a provider to conduct a comprehensive, multidisciplinary developmental evaluation to assess the child’s strengths and needs in all five areas of development. 

The family also participates in a child and family assessment of priorities, concerns, strengths, and needs conducted by the service coordinator. This information helps the family’s Early Intervention teamwork with the family to develop a plan that meets the family’s goals for their child’s early learning and development. A child qualifies for early intervention with either a diagnosed condition that is likely to result in a developmental delay or a developmental delay in any one area of development that is 25% or greater of his/her chronological age.

How Early Intervention is Provided

Early Intervention refers to the coordination of services that are recommended based on an assessment by the service coordinator, development therapist, and families. Service coordinators provide:

  • Education to parents about what is provided for the child under IDEA
  • Parenting education including helpful activities
  • Help for families to increase strengths to overcome potential weakness

The focus of early intervention in a Part C program is to promote the child’s ability to participate in a typical home and community activities, so services are provided at home, at childcare, or in a community location the family frequents.  Early Intervention service providers work with parents and other caregivers to support the child’s caregivers in helping the child learn and develop new skills. Services are provided based on what is needed to reach functional goals on the family’s plan called the IFSP, or Individualized Family Service Plan.  Each family is provided a service coordinator who guides the family through the process and assists the family in developing their IFSP, coordinating supports and services, and learning their rights under IDEA.

Referral Information

Anyone with a concern about a child’s early learning and/or development can make a referral. Use the First Connections form to submit a referral online.

If you are a provider sending a referral, please provide:

  • Email address in the comment section of the First Connections referral website.
  • Some insurance companies may require a prescription for developmental evaluation in order to determine program eligibility.

For additional information or assistance call 800-643-8258.


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