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Is Early Intervention COST Effective?


There is another key question that every parent, professional, and politician wants answered: “Is Early Intervention Clinically Effective?”

Again, the experts have spoken loudly on this question.  A 2001 cost-benefit study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, 5/8/01, vol. 285, no.18) found that an early intervention program costing $6,730 per child generated a return on investment of $47,759 for each child. This means that for every $1 invested, $7.10 was returned to society in the form of decreased expenditures (e.g., fewer subsequent special education services, less grade retention).  When similar services for 2nd & 3rd graders were analyzed, results showed a return of only $1.66 for every $1 invested.

An article published in the peer-reviewed journal Behavioral Intervention (Jacobson, Mulick, & Green; 1998, vol.13,  pages 201-226) found that if 100 children are provided with intensive Early Intervention services, and only 40 of the children demonstrate just partial improvement, the school district still would save $9.5 million over the course of their school years from age 3 to 22. The Rand Corporation reported in 1999 that the IQ’s of children who had Early Intervention was 10 points higher than a control group’s IQ’s. The report went on to conclude that the societal benefits of early intervention exceed the costs.

A study by the Education Commission of the States found Cost-Benefit Ratios and future savings for Early Intervention spending (e.g., Massachusetts saved $2,705 per child in one year after deducting costs of Early Intervention services, and Florida reported total net savings of $20,887 per child over 20 years, and in Montana 36% of children who received Early Intervention services no longer required special education services by 2nd grade, and another 33% required only limited services).  Taken together, we may safely conclude that Early Intervention is a cost-effective program.