Differences Between Early Childhood and Early Intervention Settings
Service settings in early childhood are different than those in early intervention. Early intervention emphasizes serving children in their "natural environment".
This means that from birth to age 3, services generally follow a child to childcare or home or wherever the child typically lives and plays. Focusing on a child's natural environment makes it easier to keep children with and without disabilities together.
Once the child turns 3 and is eligible for special education services, the discussion about service settings tends to focus on the various programs available for children with special needs. Because funding for these classrooms is tied to whether a child is eligible for their services, children in this age group historically have found themselves in segregated classrooms.
While early intervention services might follow the child into a community program, the child will typically follow the early childhood or at-risk services provided by the local school district into an early childhood or at-risk classroom. Finding alternatives to keep children in their natural environment throughout the early childhood years is a current challenge for professionals and parents.