About early childhood intervention
Early childhood intervention is therapies, learning activities and other community supports for young children who are autistic or who have disability or other additional needs.
Early childhood intervention gives children the specialised support they need to grow, thrive, reach their full potential and participate in their communities. It also helps families support their children’s development.
If your child is younger than 9 years and has disability or is younger than 6 and has developmental delay or developmental concerns, the NDIS early childhood approach gives them quick access to support. If your child needs longer-term support, they might become an NDIS participant.
Quality in early childhood intervention services: what it looks like
Early childhood intervention services provide individualised programs for young children who are autistic or who have disability or other additional needs. These services support children’s families too.
A high-quality early childhood intervention service:
- considers and respects your family’s needs and circumstances when making decisions about your child’s learning and development
- helps you and your family develop skills and strategies to support your child
- help your child take part in and learn through everyday activities in familiar places
- ensures that everyone is working together in the best interests of your child.
Consideration and respect for your family’s needs and circumstances
You and your child’s other family members are the most important and influential people in your child’s life. This means it’s essential for early childhood intervention services to think about what works for you when they’re working with you on a program of therapies and supports for your child.
High-quality early childhood intervention services and professionals will want to learn about your family, your routines and interests, and the things you enjoy doing with your child. This helps them:
- build therapy suggestions into things you’re already doing well or enjoy – for example, if your child enjoys going to the local park, your child’s therapist could work with your child there
- meet the needs of all family members – for example, they might suggest therapy activities that include your other children’s interests
- make therapy appointments at times and in places that work for you – for example, they might shift appointments so you don’t need to leave work early
- check that things are working well – for example, they’ll ask how you think things are going in your work together and adjust their approach if they need to.
To understand what works for your family, high-quality early childhood intervention services and professionals must respect family diversity. This means that services and professionals respect:
- your family’s religious and cultural background, values, beliefs and languages
- your family’s parenting arrangements, whether you’re raising children as a blended family, co-parenting family, single-parent family, LGBTIQ+ family and so on
- gender diversity in your family, including respect for your and your child’s gender and preferred pronouns
- your family’s choices, like where you live, whether your house is tidy or what your child is wearing
- your family’s circumstances – for example, parenting with intellectual disability or parenting as a teenager.
It’s a good idea to share information with your early childhood intervention team about your family and your strengths, needs and preferences. This helps you set clear expectations about how you’d like to work together. For example, you could help your early childhood intervention team understand who’s in your family, their role and what they should be called.
Support for you to develop skills and strategies that help your child
Everyday play and interaction with you is one of the best ways for your child to learn and develop. This means that you and other members of your child’s family need to have skills and strategies to play an active role in your child’s development.
High-quality early childhood intervention services and professionals will help you develop these skills and strategies by:
- sharing ideas you can use throughout the day – for example, if your child uses a wheelchair, they might show you play options that get your child moving in a fun way
- helping you get resources – for example, if your autistic child is starting preschool, they might help you develop social stories to ease the transition
- working with everyone in the family to support your child, if you ask them to – for example, they might include a grandparent in your child’s physiotherapy sessions so they learn how best to play with your child
- listening to your concerns and encouraging you to voice your opinions, ask questions, share views and information, and suggest things.
Support for your child to take part in and learn through everyday activities
Learning through everyday activities in familiar places with parents, family friends, siblings, peers and educators is the best way to support your child’s learning, development and independence. That’s because your child learns best when they feel safe, supported and included.
This means that high-quality early childhood intervention services and professionals will come to your home or the places your child goes regularly. For example, they might:
- try new strategies when your child is playing with familiar toys or doing favourite activities at home
- go to your child’s preschool to talk with the educators about using the same strategies at preschool and home
- go with you to the supermarket or other places and suggest ideas for managing your child’s behaviour.
High-quality services or professionals will also help your child learn by making learning activities part of your family’s daily life. So your child’s specialist teacher or therapist will probably:
- share ideas that you can use as part of your normal routine – for example, they might provide a step-by-step plan so your child can build up to cleaning their teeth independently
- build on your child’s existing strengths and interests – for example, if your child loves animals, the therapist might suggest your child can develop their independence by helping you walk or feed your dog.
Parents have said that helping their child learn through everyday activities in familiar places:
- is less stressful than travelling to therapy appointments
- fits well with family routines, commitments and things they enjoy doing
- is more comfortable for their child because they can learn in a familiar environment like home or preschool
- makes it easier to see progress because their child is learning ‘real-life’ skills
- is a great way to involve siblings
- helps them use therapy to achieve goals, rather than seeing a therapy appointment as the goal in itself.
Learning in everyday places like preschool, shops and playgrounds also helps your child participate in their community, which is an important part of inclusion.
Everyone working together in the best interests of your child
Your child will learn and develop best when you, your family and your child’s professionals all understand your child’s goals and how to help your child achieve those goals.
High-quality early childhood intervention services and professionals work with you and your family as a team. You all work together in your child’s interests, sharing information, knowledge and skills. For example, if you decide that it’s important to help your child with their anxiety, your child’s special education teacher and your child’s psychologist might talk and plan a coordinated approach to this.
Some early childhood intervention services will nominate a single key worker. Your key worker will be the person you’ll see and talk to most in your early childhood intervention service. They’ll be your child’s primary early childhood intervention professional. In some cases, they might be your child’s only professional.
Your key worker can also:
- identify your goals and priorities and address them with you
- talk with your child’s medical and education professionals to ensure everyone is coordinated and meeting your child’s needs
- talk with your child’s early childhood partner and come to planning meetings with you
- visit your home or your child’s child care centre or community activities to advise on how to support your child’s learning and inclusion.
You and your child are the most important members of your child’s early intervention team. Your child will become a more active part of the team as they grow and start to make decisions about the things that are important to them.
Positive relationships with professionals can take time to develop. They also take good mutual communication and respect for everyone’s contributions. Professionals need your feedback to get things right for your child and family.