Early Steps Southernmost Coast

What is Early Steps?

Getting the right services at the right time can really make a difference for children with special needs. The Early Steps Program assures that early intervention services and supporting resources are available for young children with special needs from birth to age three. If your child has a developmental delay (i.e. is slow to begin crawling, walking or talking), vision, hearing, feeding, or other established condition that place him/her at risk for developmental delay, and you live in the southern half of Miami Dade County through the Florida Keys of Monroe County, your family may be eligible for services through Early Steps Southernmost Coast. If you live outside of the area, we can assist in finding the right Early Steps location for you.

The Early Steps system is part of the State of Florida Children's Medical Services and is funded by what is called "Part C" of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA is a federal program that helps organizations such as Nicklaus Children's Hospital and the State of Florida provide family-centered, early intervention services (What is IDEA, Part C?).


For specific information on the Early Steps system in Florida, see the Early Steps statewide website. Early Steps Southernmost Coast at Nicklaus Children's is one of 15 programs in the state.


Who Can Receive Services?

Families, physicians, professionals, or other members in the community can refer any infant or toddler (under the age of three) with developmental concerns to the program. Children may be eligible if they have an established condition that has a high probability of resulting in disability or developmental delay (e.g. Down Syndrome) or if they have a developmental delay (e.g., having trouble communicating, processing information, walking, etc.).

How do I know if my child has developmental delays?

The CDC has created the following resource to help  you understand your child's development:

Your child will receive a multidisciplinary evaluation and assessment by a team of specialists, including a Service Coordinator and two or more of the following clinicians to determine his or her eligibility: physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech/language therapist, psychologist, or developmental specialist. Children who are found eligible in accordance with the Early Steps guidelines are enrolled with subcontracted community agencies to provide the services recommended by the Individualized Family Support Plan team, which always includes the parents. 


Early Steps services are based on Early Steps evaluations and your family's concerns, resources, and goals. Early Steps uses a Team Based Primary Service Provider approach which aims to empower each eligible family by providing a comprehensive team of professionals from the beginning of services through transition. The goal is for the family to receive strong support from one person, provide a comprehensive team of professionals from beginning to end, and for the family to have fewer appointments and more time to be a “family.” Services are provided to the family and child where they live, learn and play ("Natural Environment"), to enable the family to implement developmentally appropriate learning opportunities during everyday activities and routines.

A child's future can be brighter when necessary care and treatment is provided early in life.

Services Provided

Depending on a child's needs, families with their infants and toddlers referred to Early Steps Southernmost Coast at Nicklaus Children's Hospital may be eligible for, and receive, some of the following services:

  • Hearing tests, hearing aids, and related resources and information
  • Equipment to aid in movement and self help activities
  • Early intervention therapy and family training to help a child with daily activities like holding a cup or eating, walking and talking.
  • Information for families to help them understand their child's special needs
  • Home visits and information for the family or caregivers to aid them in helping the child learn new skills
  • Health, educational, and nursing services, so the child can participate in activities with typically developing children
  • Information on special diets or eating needs of the child
  • Family counseling, behavior, or mental health counseling
  • Information about support organizations for families whose children have special health care needs

Would you like to become a provider for Early Steps?

Become a provider of early intervention services in our community to make a difference in the lives of infants and toddlers with special needs. Early intervention specialists needed include Infant Toddler Developmental Specialists (non-licensed EI providers), Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, and other specialists to serve young children birth to thirty-six months. All professionals must be eligible to enroll in the statewide Early Steps Provider Enrollment system.

You can find out more by going to the Early Steps State website.

For more information about Early Steps