Peter De Natris (Strategic Advisor, Scheme Transition, NDIS): The early childhood intervention approach is the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s design for very young children aged 0 to 6 and their families. The key design features are to make the Scheme easy to access and to ensure that families can be engaged in a way that answer questions for them quickly, and give them access to expert advice and guidance, making sure supports are available as early as possible in the child’s life where there might be something going on. That could be a clearly diagnosed disability, but that might also be the presentation of a developmental delay that requires further investigation and support.
Kate Hanley (NDIS early childhood access partner): We know as service providers how important early intervention is, and this approach really allows us to meet with families straight away.
Faith (mother of Nate, 6 years, and Amara, 10 years): We were getting to the point where we were feeling quite lost. We really weren’t sure where else to go with Nate. Some of the behaviours were quite extreme and constant. We finally got to a point where now we feel that support. When you’ve been lost and had no help for 6 months, to get someone to give you that help quickly, it’s immeasurable.
Professor Jacqueline Roberts (Autism Centre of Excellence, Griffith University): Early intervention’s very important so that we can get in and we can teach the children skills that they need in their deficit areas. We can also manage the environment to make it easier for the children to participate and engage.
Peter De Natris: A diagnosis, while important, is only an informing feature. What is really, really important is the family feels that the child is well supported and that the ongoing journey for that family is something that they have positive regard to.
Kate Hanley: As an access partner, we meet with that family, identify some goals and things the family want to work on, and how to support that child. Our role is also to look at future options for that family. If that family needs support through mainstream community services, we’d help them find those services and access those services.
Peter De Natris: Some children obviously are born with quite clearly diagnosable disabilities, whereas others’ developmental delay is not so clear. It’s a presentation. Under the early intervention parts of the Scheme, diagnosis is not necessary.
Lee-Anne (mother of Oliver, 2½ years): Even though we know the main areas of which Ollie needs to access therapy, we don’t actually have a global diagnosis, and we may be some years from that. But that’s not a problem in terms of accessing the things that he needs to help him, because we’ve got enough of a diagnosis of a broad sense.
Peter De Natris: The design is less about having to fill in forms and go through applications to meet criteria, and more about making contact with as many children and their parents as possible that do need that type of support.
Faith: If this program didn’t exist, I’m not sure where my son’s future would be. Doing all that hard work now, later on in life it’ll be easier for him.