Early Intervention and Special Education

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides for early intervention services for young children (from age 1 until age 3) and special education services for older children (ages 3 and older) to minimize the effects of developmental delays and learning disabilities that could otherwise limit children’s developmental and educational prospects. Early intervention includes physical, occupational, and speech therapy for young children with developmental problems, and special education programs provide therapies and educational services. Overall, 3.1 percent of children from age 1 until their 3rd birthday received early intervention services, while 6.6 percent of children aged 3 to less than 6 years received special education services. Of school-aged children (aged 6-17 years), 11.3 percent receive special education services (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

Boys were more likely to receive special education services than girls (8.3 versus 4.8 percent for preschool-aged children and 14.1 versus 8.4 percent for school-aged children), but the difference for early intervention programs by sex was not statistically significant.

Among children aged 1 to less than 3 years, those with household incomes below 200 percent of the Federal poverty level (FPL) were most likely to receive early intervention services (3.6 percent), followed by 3.1 percent of those with household incomes between 200 and 399 percent of FPL, and 2.2 percent of those with incomes of 400 percent of the FPL or more.

Similarly, among children old enough for special education, those with household incomes below 100 percent of the FPL were most likely to receive these services (7.7 percent of children aged 36-71 months and 14.4 percent of children aged 6-17 years); less than two-thirds as many children with incomes of 400 percent of the FPL or more received these services (5.7 percent of children aged 36-71 months and 9.2 percent of children aged 6-17 years).