Introduction to the Early Communication Indicator (ECI)

One of the most important missions of early intervention is to help children learn how to express their wants and needs. Whether the intervention is home-based or center-based, a critical outcome for our youngest children is to learn how to communicate. Learning to communicate is a widely accepted and highly valued General Outcome of early childhood. Programs for very young children need to know when they are making progress in becoming more proficient communicators and when to take action in the form of different intervention procedures. Programs also need to decide what types of supports children will need to help them become better communicators or when to supply in-depth assessment and referral for children not making acceptable progress.

Sample ECI Progress Monitoring GraphResearch indicates that expressive communication is a general outcome that parents and professionals identify as important for young children. The ability to express one’s wants and needs through expressive communication was one of 15 general child outcome statements investigated by a national sample of parents (n=351) and professionals (n=672) (Priest et al., 2001). Of the 15 general outcomes examined in the study, expressive communication was the most highly rated. Other general outcomes included movement, social competence, and problem-solving, among others (Priest et al., 2001).

The Early Communication Indicator (ECI) is one means of checking children’s growth toward the important outcome of being able to express themselves through their gestures, vocalizations, words, and sentences.

Because children’s rate of growth in communication is so critical for later success, monitoring individual children’s growth on the ECI can be important for making individual intervention decisions. Monitoring ECI growth for all children in a program can provide helpful information on program progress and inform programmatic decisions regarding this essential outcome. When used state-wide, monitoring children’s growth on the ECI can be an important indicator of program results at this level.