What is ECI and Why Is it Important?

Authors: Renee Ellis, Teacher of Students with Visual Impairment (TVI) and Independent Early Childhood Consultant

Keywords: Early Childhood Intervention, ECI, Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, Texas Health and Human Services Commission, HHSC, Texas Education Agency, TEA, Child Find, Individuals with Disabilities Act, IDEA, Texas Education Code, Local Education Agency, LEA, Individualized Family Service Plan, IFSP, Admission, Review, and Dismissal, ARD

Abstract: The author spells out the interplay between agencies, systems, and plans for providing Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) services for children with sensory impairments in Texas, ages birth to three. She also describes the legal framework within which these systems and entities operate.

Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) is a statewide program within the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) that provides services to children less than three years of age who have developmental delays or disabilities and to their families. ECI programs provide services in every county in Texas undefined and function as a three-way partnership between service providers, families, and the local education agency (LEA).

Through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between HHSC and the Texas Education Agency (TEA), children with vision impairment and/or hearing loss are served under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and the Texas Education Code. Part of the ECI’s responsibility under Part C is Child Find. Child Find is a legal requirement that schools must find all children who have disabilities and who may be entitled to special education services. ECI programs are tasked with locating, identifying and evaluating all infants and toddlers, birth through 36 months of age, who have or are suspected of having developmental delays, or an auditory or visual impairment.

An infant boy sits facing a multicolored beaded curtain on a black slant board holding onto a gold mardi-gras strand of beads.

A toddler plays with beads during a vision assessment.

ECI and Vision and/or Hearing Impairment

Services for a child from birth to 36 months with a visual or auditory impairment must be coordinated between the local ECl program and the school district where the child resides. ECI programs, with parental consent, will provide evaluation(s) by a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist for children suspected of having a visual impairment and/or an audiological evaluation by a licensed audiologist when an auditory impairment is suspected. If a child is suspected of having a vision or hearing impairment, the ECI is responsible, with parental consent, for contacting the local education agency (LEA) to inform them of the need for an evaluation. The LEA will provide a TVI (Teacher of Students with Visual Impairment) and COMS (Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist) to complete certain evaluations to determine if the child qualifies for services related to their visual impairment, and/or a Certified Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TDHH) if there is a suspected auditory impairment.

Children from birth to three who have a medically diagnosed vision and/or hearing loss or who are deafblind are eligible for free services related to their sensory impairment  from both ECI and the local school district. Only children with auditory and/or visual impairments, or who are deafblind, are eligible to receive free services through the LEA.

Other services the child may need, such as physical, occupational or speech therapy and nutrition services fall under ECI’s Family Cost Share. Families may have to pay for those services. The Family Cost Share is a sliding-fee scale and is based on family size and income after allowable deductions. No child or family will be turned away for services due to an inability to pay.

ECI services are based on the needs and concerns of each family and child. Services are provided in natural settings, typically the child’s home, but they may also be provided at other places such as daycare. The ECI program staff, along with the family, will develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) for the child which describes services based on the strengths and needs of the child and the family. “One guiding principle of the IFSP is that the family is a child’s greatest resource, that a young child’s needs are closely tied to the needs of his or her family. The best way to support children and meet their needs is to support and build upon the individual strengths of their family. So, the IFSP is a whole family plan with the parents as major contributors in its development.”

ECI professionals work with family members and teach the family ways to practice specific skills within their daily routine(s) that promote the child’s development. The IFSP is reviewed with the family every 6 months and updated yearly. ECI services may include some or all of the following:

  • Case management and specialized skills training
  • Physical, occupational, and speech therapy
  • Nursing and nutrition services
  • Social work and counseling services
  • Deaf education and vision services

ECI’s are required and responsible for inviting a TVI or TDHH, as appropriate, to the initial Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) meeting. Participation by the appropriate TVl and/or TDHH is required at the initial and annual IFSP meetings, and to other IFSP meetings when issues related to or affected by the auditory or visual impairment will be addressed (MOU, Sec IV A.7).

Transition from ECI to PreSchool (Part C to Part B)

Children do not automatically qualify for public school programs based solely on having received ECI services.

Not less than 90 days prior to a child’s third birthday, the ECI will schedule an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) meeting to develop a transition plan for the child’s potential entry into an Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) program.  Children with vision and/or hearing loss may be eligible for special education preschool services under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA Part B).

It is the responsibility of the ECI program to inform the school that a child in the district may be eligible for services. ECI must obtain written consent from the parent(s) before notifying the district of a child’s potential eligibility. If parents choose to decline ECSE services, no further action will be taken and services will cease when the child turns three. If the parents give consent, ECI will contact the school district where the child resides, provide the school with the family’s contact information, the child’s evaluation records and the most recent IFSP. The district will then arrange for an evaluation to determine whether the child is eligible for special education services under Part B.

After the child is evaluated by the school district, an Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) meeting will be held. At this meeting the committee members, which include the parent(s), will determine if the child is eligible for special education services and if so, develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Types and amount of services will be determined at this meeting. When the child turns 3, ECI services terminate and the child is then eligible to enroll in the local school district and begin receiving services under Part B.

For More Information on Early Childhood Intervention Services in Texas, please see:

For information on the benefits of ECI:

For More Information on the IFSP Process:

Also refer to the Early Transition Memorandum of Understanding found on the Texas Education Agency website for more information about the roles and responsibilities of ECI.

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