Although many children grow and develop normally, others experience developmental delays that can lead to permanent disabilities. Early intervention specialists work to detect these delays as early in the lives of children as possible. They provide support services designed to help affected children grow into happy and healthy community members. A passion for young children, a degree in a relevant field and the right skills are some of the tools you need to become an early interventionist.
Make the First Step
Early intervention specialists come from diverse academic backgrounds. You can enter the field through at least a bachelor’s degree in child development, child studies, early childhood education, communicative disorders, counseling, special education or rehabilitative counseling. Several universities, such as Northeastern University in Massachusetts, offer graduates early intervention certificate programs, which you can pursue to increase your credentials for jobs in this field.
Develop the Skills
To provide effective intervention services, you need strong analytical skills and the ability to pay close attention to detail. You should be able to assess a toddler's social and emotional development, as well as check for the first signs of cognitive problems, physical delays and communication disorders. Decision-making skills come in handy when determining, for instance, whether an at-risk child needs to be referred to a physician. You also need skills for building partnerships. The job involves collaborating with families, early childhood educators and service practitioners such as speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and social workers.
Obtain a License or Certificate
Many states issue licenses or certificates of approval to early interventionists. Although certification requirements vary from state to state, you need a bachelor's degree in a field that is directly related to early intervention to qualify for licensure. You must also complete a certification training program. Some states -- such as Massachusetts -- accept portfolios that prove an applicant's ability to provide intervention services. To gain an edge over other job seekers, you can join a relevant professional association. If you have a background in special education, for example, you can join the National Association of Special Education Teachers.
Find a Job
As a qualified intervention specialist, you can be hired by school districts, social services agencies, private education companies, preschools, medical providers and day care centers. With vast work experience, you can progress to become an early intervention case manager. Combining this with a master's degree in early intervention can help you secure a lecturing job in a college or university, where you nurture future interventionists.