KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Children in Tennessee will be the first in the nation to be offered early intervention services until they begin school according to the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD).

A release sent on Wednesday explains that the federal government approved Tennessee to become the first state to offer eligible families early intervention services past a child’s fifth birthday until they begin school. This includes the full age range allowed for early intervention services through Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Acts (IDEA).

“We’ve seen children across Tennessee make incredible strides in their development through early intervention services,” said Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) Commissioner Brad Turner. “We are thrilled we can continue to lead the nation and take this opportunity to give families the support they need to help their children grow and prepare for school.”

The Tennessee Early Intervention System (TEIS) is a voluntary program that offers therapy and other services to infants and young children who have developmental delays or disabilities at no cost to their families. During the 2023 fiscal year, TEIS provided services to nearly 18,000 children.

In 2022, the DIDD gave families the option to extend services through the TEIS Extended Option until the start of school after a child’s fourth birthday. Thanks to federal approval, families will now have the option to extend services for an additional year.

The DIDD says children are eligible for TEIS services if they show a 40% delay in one area or a 25% delay in two areas on a developmental evaluation. Additionally, children with certain diagnoses or who meet prematurity guidelines are also eligible, the DIDD said.

To learn more about TEIS, visit the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities’ website.