Early intervention means addressing your child’s development, health and support needs as soon as possible. This could be through therapy, counselling, family support or special education.
Providing quality early intervention for a child with a developmental delay or disability in their early years is critical to achieving the best outcomes. Effective early childhood intervention should be tailored to your child and family’s needs and include evidence-based strategies and supports.
Under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the approach that supports children between the ages of 0-6 years of age who have a disability or developmental delay, is called Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI).
The aim of ECEI is to provide supports as early as possible to give your child the best opportunity possible to develop to their full potential and reduce the likelihood of them needing ongoing supports in the future.
To access early intervention services under NDIS children aged 0-6 you don’t need a formal diagnosis of disability. If you have concerns about your child’s behaviour or development, you can call the NDIS hotline on 1800 800 110 and request access to ECEI support.
You can also be referred by your GP, family nurse, paediatrician or child care educator.
To deliver the best outcomes for young children with disability the NDIA has teamed up with experienced early childhood partners in your local community, who will provide assistance, advice and access to early intervention support for your child.
If your child is unlikely to have a lifelong disability, or any long term effects are still unclear, the ECEI partner can link your family with mainstream supports and work with them over the short to medium-term. They might also provide initial supports if the child needs them and monitor progress.
If your child has a lifelong disability, the ECEI partner will work with you to develop a NDIS plan that best suits your child’s needs and can help you to access services.
The ECEI process is about giving families information, time to understand what supports are available to them and how the system works, rather than sending them straight to service providers or mainstream supports.
During the ECEI process, families can build their capacity and develop the skills to make informed decisions throughout their child’s life.
When your child turns seven years old they will be re-assessed to either move to an individualised funded plan under NDIS where a formal diagnosis is required, or transition to other Government support services.
Preparing for your ECEI meeting
Before meeting with your ECEI partner to discuss your concerns about your child, there are a number of things you can do in preparation:
Gather any information that may assist your local ECEI partner to build a picture of your child. This will help them understand the impact of your child’s developmental delay or disability on their daily life and social participation, and determine the services and supports your child and family requires
Identify the things that are working well for your family and your child now
Think about the activities your child is currently doing in your community. Would you like help to find social or community-based groups or activities for your child to participate in?
Consider your child’s current supports. Do you and your family have established relationships with providers that you would like to continue? What informal supports do your family and friends provide?
Do you have any social, behavioural or physical goals for your child?
Any questions you may have
The early childhood support journey
Every child is unique, so each early childhood support journey will be different however there are some common steps in the process of accessing ECEI supports.
All children will go through steps one and two, but the journey from there will depend on the individual child:
Connect with an early childhood partner - through the NDIA, your own request or the referral of your GP or Paediatrician.
Get some helpful information - Your ECEI partner will help you understand your child’s support needs and provide you with guidance and information that will help you make decisions about the right supports and services for your child.
Discuss support needs - Your ECEI partner will work with you to set goals for your child and help you understand what development programs, supports and services could help achieve these.
Referral to supports and services - Your ECEI partner will connect you with supports and services available in your local community, or provide some initial early intervention supports themselves if the child needs it.
Accessing the NDIS - If it is clear your child would be best supported with an NDIS plan, your ECEI partner will work with you to request NDIS access and develop a plan.
Monitor progress - Your early childhood partner and any service providers will work with you to monitor your child’s progress against the goals you’ve set.
What to look for in early intervention supports
If you seeking early intervention support for your child you may want to consider the following key points:
Is the support family-centred? Supports actively involve and engage parents and other family members, and are tailored to the family’s circumstances and priorities.
Is the support child-focused? Supports are suggested and delivered based on the individual child’s needs and goals, and aim to develop specific skills.
Is it structured and supportive? Supports are delivered in an environment where the child and family feel comfortable and are highly structured, well-organised, consistent and predictable.
Is there quality of therapy? Supports and services are based on solid evidence and research, and delivered by practitioners with appropriate qualifications and experience.
Will there be regular assessment? Supports are regularly reviewed and progress is regularly assessed against the child’s goals and milestones.
Does it build knowledge and skills? Supports and information provided build the knowledge, skills and confidence of the family and important people in the child’s life.