Feeding, weight gain, and diet are consistently high on parent’s priority list for their infant/child and can be a source of stress when they feel unable to meet these needs on an ongoing basis. We now know that nutrition is the biggest environmental influence in an infant and young child’s brain development.

Balanced nutrition with adequate iron, in particular, is essential for optimal brain growth and development in a child’s formative years. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplements at ages 1–3 have been found to bring consistent, positive results in cognitive and language development.

A nutrition assessment can identify needs or gaps in child’s nutrition that may be directly affecting developmental progress. Nutrition consultation can provide options and guidance to parents with nutrition information that is targeted toward their child’s individual needs.

Early intervention can effectively work alongside a public health and/or a medical model of care in the home setting to adapt strategies to a family’s individual culture and schedule. Nutrition services in early intervention can bring adaptations and accommodations that meet an infant or toddler’s individual needs in their diet that can promote strength, attention, comfort level, and independence.

Written with assistance from Jo Sue Stine, RN

EI Nutrition Services

Nutrition services in early intervention are provided by licensed dieticians. These services can include:

  1. Conducting individual assessments in nutritional history and dietary intake, feeding skills and feeding problems, and food habits and food preferences.
  2. Developing and monitoring appropriate plans to address the nutritional needs of eligible children based upon individual assessment.
  3. Making referrals to appropriate community resources to achieve individual planned nutrition outcomes.
  4. Family training, education, and support provided to assist the family of a child eligible for EI services in understanding the special needs of the child as related to nutritional services and enhancing the child’s development are integral to this service.

Originally written for the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse Newsletter:  Fall 2019

The Role of Nutrition in Early Intervention