A Brief Overview
- Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) is a term that describes how young children develop socially and emotionally. They learn about their emotions form close and secure relationships with their caregivers and family members. They learn and explore the environment – all in the context of family, community, and culture.
- Families concerned about a child’s development can call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588, with support in multiple languages. Parents can complete a developmental screening online for free at Parent Help 123.
- PAVE provides an article for next steps after age 3: What’s Next when Early Childhood Services End at Age 3? Another PAVE article for families new to special education: Steps to Read, Understand, and Develop an Initial IEP.
- PAVE’s Parent Training and Information (PTI) staff help families understand and navigate service systems for children 0-26. Click Get Help on the PAVE website or call 800-572-7368.
- Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) helps young children with disabilities or delays to learn and supports their unique development.
New parents may struggle to know whether their child’s emotional development is on track. They may have a feeling that a milestone is missed, or they may observe siblings or the emotional well-being of other children and notice their child is developing differently. Sometimes a parent just needs reassurance. Other times, a child may have a developmental delay or a disability. In those cases, early support, including Infant Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) can be critical to a child’s lifelong learning and development.
IECMH is a term that describes how very young children develop socially and emotionally. They form relationships with other people. They learn about their emotions and how to control them. This happens in the settings of their family, community, and culture. (Zero to Three, Basics of Early Childhood Mental Health, 2017).
According to Best Starts for Kids, relationships are at the heart of human development and thriving for infants, toddlers, and young children. Relationships with parents and caregivers give very young children the social and emotional foundations they need to learn and thrive.
The Washington Health Care Authority reports around 1 in 6 young children has a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental condition (Cree et al., 2018). These conditions may be treated with infant early childhood mental health (IECMH) services.
Services work to improve the quality of the child’s relationship with parents or caregivers. They can:
- Help the distress of the mental health concern.
- Support the return to healthy development and behavior.
When families receive Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) services for a child, the child is tested as part of an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).
The evaluation looks at the child’s ability to:
- Identify and understand their own feelings;
- Accurately notice and understand other people’s emotional states.
- Manage strong emotions in a positive way.
- Control their behavior.
- Develop empathy (understand how people feel based on the child’s own experience)
- Make and support relationships.
The evaluation may show the child is not developing well in some of these areas. IECMH services may help.
Some examples of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health services include:
- Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation
- Parent training
- Childcare provider training
- Group training
- Parent Behavioral Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Infant/Child – Parent Psychotherapy
- Play therapy
If you are concerned about a child’s development:
- To learn about typical development, read the birth-to-6 pre-screening chart in English or Spanish
- Please Ask is a three-minute video that shows the importance of referring infants and toddlers for early intervention. ESIT is a part if the Department of Children, Youth and Families
- Families can call the ESIT local lead agency: Local Lead Agencies by County
- Family Health Hotline: 1-800-322-2588. This statewide, toll-free number offers help in English, Spanish, and other languages.
- Early Learning Transition: When Birth-3 Services End
- Informing Families
- Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)
- OSPI Early Childhood services
- Early Intervention Resources in English and Spanish on the Parent Center Hub
- Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families
- Head Start Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center, Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation: Information for Families
- Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, Center of Excellence for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation