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Just The Way You Are - Tennessee Early Intervention Systems

            Anyone who has been involved in the world of disability for any significant amount of time knows about a program called Tennessee Early Intervention System.  For those of you who don’t, though, I’d like to share with you some information about a wonderful, state funded program that Tennessee offers to its special needs and developmentally delayed children ages birth to 3.             Tennessee Early Intervention System, also known as T.E.I.S., is an educational program that is offered free to special needs children and those at risk for a developmental delay.  Kathy Long, a Service Coordinator for T.E.I.S. describes it this way, “I want parents to know this is really a partnership where we all work together, parents and professionals, to meet the needs of their child.” It is completely voluntary, but in my opinion, it would be a disservice to any developmentally challenged child to keep them out of this program. T.E.I.S. works with a wide range of children, including those who are blind, autistic, deaf, have Down’s Syndrome, and even those with nothing medically wrong if they are at risk for a developmental delay. To keep it simplistic I’d like to explain it this way: a developmental delay is characterized by a child not reaching those “milestones” that most children do, such as sitting up by 6 to 8 months of age, saying their first words by 14 months, and the list goes on. Of course, it gets much more complicated than this, but don’t fret if your 7 month old isn’t sitting up just yet. Every child develops differently and that is why T.E.I.S. offers knowledgeable people to help you if you are concerned about your child’s development.  Your child’s pediatrician is also a great partner and a good first step in helping you to determine if your child is reaching his or her milestones. 

This all sounds very nice, but what does it mean? In practical application, T.E.I.S will come to your home and evaluate your child. They look to see if your child is at risk to be delayed in any area. If they determine that your child qualifies for T.E.I.S., a Service Coordinator will sit down with you and write out an Individualized Family Service Plan or IFSP, which is essentially a set of goals for your child. You and the service coordinator determine what areas your child needs help with and things that you are concerned about, and together you come up with a set of goals that you want to accomplish with your child. Once T.E.I.S. begins providing services to your child, someone will come to your house or the child’s daycare, once a month, or up to once a week, however often you’d like. They work with your child to see where they are developmentally and what they need to work on. They can show you ways to help encourage your child’s development, come up with ideas to motivate your child to reach his or her milestones in a fun way, address questions and concerns that you may have, and much more. My son’s T.E.I.S. teacher has signed him up to receive free Braille books, brought him toys, and has even done research for me to find answers to questions I’ve had. The list of what they can do is limitless. What is important to know is that they tailor their work to your child’s needs, and to promoting his or her development.  They find ways to do it that your child will enjoy. Once your child is about 2 ½ years old, T.E.I.S begins working to help you transition your child from T.E.I.S. into the school system.
            T.E.I.S. is an invaluable resource to families of children with special needs. The name “Early Intervention” isn’t just a name. Taking affirmative steps towards helping at risk children to reach those milestones makes a world of difference for these children. It allows them the chance to learn and grow to their highest potential in the critical years where they are developing at the highest rate. Having a special needs child is hard enough on its own, so having T.E.I.S.‘s helping hand makes all the difference. It takes a lot of pressure off of already stressed and stretched parents to make sure their child doesn’t fall behind. Most people are not experts in the field of child development and especially special needs child development, so to have someone in your corner who is, makes all the difference. If you would like more information on Tennessee Early Intervention System, you can visit the State of Tennessee website at or call 1-800-852-7157. And as always, if you have questions for me or if I can be of any help to you, please contact me at


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