The Role of the Interpreter in Early Intervention

An interpreter’s primary role is to facilitate communications between speakers who use different languages. Interpreters working with Global Arena take on a variety of assignments including: legal proceedings, school meetings, and medical appointments. A specific type of medical appointment that interpreters encounter is called Early Intervention.

What is early intervention?
Early intervention is a state-run program which provides support and services to families with young children (aged 0-3 years) who have developmental delays or disabilities. Developmental delays are classified in the following ways: physical, cognitive, communication, social/emotional, and adaptive. Early intervention services are provided by a team of social workers and an interpreter; when necessary. These services are integrated into the family’s daily life in a way that causes the least disruption to the child. Early intervention services are funded by the state and federal government which makes them cost-free to families in Pennsylvania. The program was created in 1986 when Congress reauthorized the Education of All Handicapped Children Act. The intent of this legislature was to reduce the impact of developmental delays and disabilities in young children and their families and to maximize their potential for independent living in the future.

What services are provided in early intervention?
The first step is an evaluation of the child’s developmental milestones. The team works to assess the child’s development compared to the normal development of peers. For example, a parent might wonder if their child should be crawling or if it’s a problem that the child is not crawling yet. If the evaluation reveals a need to continue the early intervention services, the direct caregivers – usually the parents – are assessed. Their concerns, priorities, and resources are evaluated through interviews and an assessment tool. The next step is writing a family service plan; the team works with the family to make decisions about how to proceed. Some examples of decisions made in the planning stage include: Who will be involved in the child’s treatment? Where and when will the services take place? What are the major goals or outcomes expected of the treatment?

Why is it so important to have an interpreter?
The interpreter is needed to facilitate any face-to-face meetings, interviews, and evaluations between the parents and the social worker when a parent is limited English proficient (LEP). Support services must take place in the child’s natural environment. They often take place in the family’s home, the child’s school, or daycare. For families who speak English as a second language, having an interpreter present allows them to use their first language as they naturally would without interference from the support team. Also, this preserves the family’s values and diversity. Informed parental consent is necessary to proceed with the service plan. Furthermore, one of the main objectives of early intervention is to provide education to the parent. The presences of a qualified interpreter enables LEP parents to receive the best possible education on their child’s developmental delay or disability.

Global Arena employs a network of qualified interpreters who perform in a multitude of situations. There are numerous scenarios where it is opportune to enlist the services of a skilled interpreter. Whether the nature of the assignment falls within the healthcare, legal, or educational industries; reach out to Global Arena to request an interpreter.

Note: this article focuses on early intervention services in Pennsylvania. For more information about services available in your state, please refer to the following link:


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