Services and Eligibility

About ECI Services

ECI provides evaluations, at no cost to families, to determine eligibility and the need for services. Families and professionals work together as a team to plan appropriate services based on the unique strengths and needs of the child and family. Services are provided in the home and in community settings such as child care facilities, play groups and Mothers' Day Out programs. For help in locating ECI services, please call our toll-free DARS Inquiries Line, or use our search feature to find a service or program in your area.

ECI services feature:

Individualized Planning Process
Once eligibility is determined, an interdisciplinary team, which includes the family, develops an individualized family service plan. The services in the plan are provided in a location chosen by the family.

Family-Centered Services
Services are based on the needs and concerns of each family and child. ECI professionals and family members incorporate activities into the child and family’s daily activities to promote the child’s development.

Case Management
Service coordinators help families access and receive the services, resources, and supports they need to support their child’s development. Supports include helping the child and family transition to special education services as appropriate for children exiting ECI at age 3. ECI programs provide comprehensive case management for all members of the child’s family as their needs relate to the child’s growth and development.

Familiar Settings
Though most ECI services are provided at home, they can be provided in other places where the child goes regularly (e.g., a childcare center, park, library, or other community setting).

Professional Providers
The team that evaluates the child and plans services includes licensed or credentialed early intervention specialists, speech and language pathologists, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists, registered nurses, dietitians, social workers, and counselors.

Plans for Continuing Services
ECI services end when the child turns three. Well before that time, the ECI team, including the family, decides on next steps. Children may transition to public school, preschool, Head Start, childcare centers, or other community activities and programs or they may stay home with their family. For those children who need further intervention services, the goal is a smooth transition with no service gaps.

How much do services cost?

The following services are provided at no cost to the family regardless of income:

  • Evaluation/assessment
  • Development of the Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP)
  • Case Management
  • Translation and interpreter services

Families with children enrolled in Medicaid , do not pay for any ECI services. Other families may pay a cost share based on family size and adjusted income after allowable deductions.

What if a child is age 3 or older?

Services are available for children and young adults with a disability, ages 3 through 21, through your local school district. A referral for assessment may be made by contacting the director of special education for your local school district. The telephone number can be found in the white pages of the phone book.

Determining Eligibility

Income is not a factor in determining eligibility. Eligibility is determined by a team of at least two professionals from different disciplines. ECI determines eligibility for infants and toddlers living in Texas who are birth to 36 months of age based on:

Medically diagnosed condition

  • A child who has a medically diagnosed condition that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay qualifies for ECI. The diagnosis must be on the DARS ECI list of qualifying medical diagnoses, and medical records must be provided to confirm the diagnosis.

Auditory or visual impairment

  • A child who has an auditory or visual impairment as defined by the Texas Education Agency rule at 19 TAC Section 89.1040 qualifies for ECI. This determination is made by a team led by certified staff from the local independent school district.

Developmental delay

  • A child who has a developmental delay of at least 25% which affects functioning in one or more areas of development, including cognition, communication, gross or fine motor, social-emotional and adaptive/self-help qualifies for ECI.

A comprehensive evaluation is used to find out the nature and extent of the child’s abilities, delays or difficulties, and to determine whether a child is eligible for early intervention services. The team uses an evaluation instrument known as the Battelle Developmental Inventory (2nd edition; BDI-2) to gather information in each of the developmental areas noted above. The BDI-2 is a norm-referenced tool, which means it assesses functioning compared to developmental norms based on other infants and toddlers. (Reference information on selection of the BDI-2). As part of the evaluation, the team will observe the child, ask the child to do things and talk to the parent about the child’s abilities.

A comprehensive evaluation that looks at all areas of development is required by federal law. This is the best way to evaluate because many aspects of a young child’s abilities and functioning are interrelated. The comprehensive evaluation may also include information from other sources, such as reviews of a child’s medical and developmental history, and interviews with parents, other primary caregivers and medical providers.

If found eligible according to any of the three criteria noted above, an assessment is then conducted. Assessment refers to procedures that are used throughout the time a child is in early intervention to:

  • identify a child’s unique strengths and needs, and
  • determine what services are necessary to meet those needs.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), evaluations and assessments are provided at no cost to parents. They are funded by state and federal monies.

Selection of Battelle Developmental Inventory (BDI-2)

As of September 2011, DARS ECI requires the use of one evaluation tool, the Battelle Developmental Inventory (BDI-2) for eligibility determination. This is a change from the previous standard that allowed contractors to use one of four designated tools, one of which was the BDI-2. The BDI-2 is used by more state early intervention systems than any other tool.

This decision to use one tool was based primarily on stakeholder input received during the ECI Evaluation. Stakeholders recommended that DARS ECI promote consistency in service delivery across ECI programs in Texas. They identified the determination of eligibility as one area for which there should be more consistency. We believe that the use of one tool and the BDI-2 in particular, helps to ensure more consistent and fair eligibility.

DARS ECI conducted an extensive review of various tools before selecting the BDI-2. Criteria considered important were: norm-referenced; ability to obtain age-equivalent scores in all developmental areas; appropriate for use in the natural environment and opportunities to incorporate input from families; availability in Spanish; good psychometric properties, such as reliability and validity; ease of administration and scoring; and electronic options for administration and support.

We considered a number of tools, and conducted extensive reviews of five of them. We held a series of focused calls to gather input from more than 30 experienced early childhood intervention service providers. All of the service providers were licensed therapists, licensed social workers or early intervention specialists, and each had extensive experience with several of the tools. Our reviews also consisted of: an in-depth examination of the content, scoring and administration of the tools; input from researchers in early intervention; and meetings with the test developers/publishers.