Early intervention lost in the shuffle

One of our goals with "Little Citizens, Big Issues" is to showcase diverse voices and viewpoints from the community on issues affecting young children in the District. This post is by Alison Whyte, policy specialist at The Arc of DC.

D.C.'s Early Intervention Program (EIP) for infants and toddlers with disabilities has moved three times in the city bureaucracy in the last three years. With each change of home came changes in staff, relationships, priorities and rules. 

In the last three years, I personally have lived in six different places. I won’t go on about the details of my nomadic life, but I will say that I was SO happy to land in D.C. and start digging my feet in. I knew when I arrived that I would be here for a while and I could really start to establish my own relationships, priorities and rules and feel secure knowing that they wouldn’t be uprooted anytime soon. 

Unfortunately, the Early Intervention Program has not had this privilege and the program has suffered for it. No, actually, infants and toddlers in DC have suffered for it. Too often, they get lost in the shuffle. 

So, how can we do better? Early intervention needs elected officials, community advocates, parents and families, schools and teachers, and other professionals to rally around it, prioritize it, and provide the opportunity for it to become stable and grow. We need to find the catalyst or tipping point that will get us back on track. For me, the tipping point happened at around 90 job applications and finally, a great job offer that facilitated my process of finding some control. What will it take for the EIP?

There have been numerous meetings, symposiums, studies, and conferences on how to make early intervention work in D.C., each of them hoping to be the catalyst that sets us in motion toward a highly successful system of care for infants and toddlers. We are moving, but we haven’t quite reached the tipping point. There are still far too many children who could benefit from intervention services, but aren’t receiving them for a variety of reasons. 

Some people say legislation is the answer, others say a public-private partnership will save us and still others believe that we just need more money for the program. What do you think will help?

I help to facilitate D.C.'s Early Intervention Working Group, an inclusive body of individuals who care about infants and toddlers in D.C. and are committed to finding a solution and building a better system. If you are interested in being a part of this group, please contact me at awhyte@arcdc.net or 202-636-2981.