If you’re a parent to young children perhaps you’ve heard of Early Intervention. You may be well versed into what it entails, maybe you’re already in the thick of the Early Intervention world or perhaps it’s been mentioned, and you have absolutely no idea and are madly googling what it all means.
If you are the latter, welcome! Hopefully by the end of this blog you’re equipped with some knowledge and understanding to grasp the early intervention concept.
Early intervention is about having access to services and supports that will assist in helping your child reach their full potential. It’s all about using that small window when they are young to optimise their learning potential. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying ‘Children are like sponges, they absorb everything’? How true this is! The Early years are when our children’s brains are developing faster than any other time, engrossing everything that is going on around them. It’s therefore a chance to form new connections and strengthen neural pathways to maximise learning opportunities.
My daughter was born with damage to her brain resulting in a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy (CP). Her right side is severely affected by her CP and when she was younger, she had absolutely no use of her right hand, it’s like she didn’t even know it existed. Early intervention services started at 7 months old, and with the access of supports and following through with strategies at home by around 2 years of age she began to have an awareness of her hand and at 7 years of age she can use it to some degree. If we didn’t have access to Early intervention support this would not be the case. We made the most of the early years to train her brain to recognise that she could in fact use this hand.
Early intervention services act to help and assist children who have a developmental delay or disability so that they can catch up or find ways to thrive and reach their full potential in a way that is applicable to their needs.
So, we have covered what early intervention is, but where to go from here. If you're concerned about your child’s development what are the supports you access?
Early Childhood Intervention Approach
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is probably where many assume that they will access assistance for intervention. But if your child is under 7 years of age, they fall under the NDIS Early Childhood Intervention Approach (ECIA). This scheme is about enabling families to gain quick access to support. Those initial years are crucial for developing little minds and this approach is embedded so that families don’t have to go down the sometimes-lengthy process of getting a diagnosis before they obtain the support that is required.
Here, you can receive assistance without becoming a NDIS participant. Support could look like Community health services, information about contacts, playgroups, early childhood partners and peer support. The Early Childhood Intervention Approach is more of a short-term approach which makes the most of the early development window. In this scheme a NDIS early childhood partner will help you to assess your child’s goals so that you can come up with a plan of what services and supports are out there for you.
When a child needs longer-term support, they will use the ECIA to start the process of becoming a NDIS participant.
The National Disability Scheme
Once your child reaches the age of 7, if they are requiring longer term support needs, they will become a NDIS participant. Often this process will start while your child is still under the Early Childhood Intervention Approach, as you will often already be aware if your child will require ongoing support before they reach 7 years of age.
An Early childhood partner will assist in the application for NDIS. Once children are over the age of 7, they will need to have a permanent delay or disability to get access to NDIS support and this is where the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) will set families up with a planner so that they can work with you to develop a plan.
Under the NDIS children will have funding for access supports, therapy services and equipment to ensure they are able to reach their full potential and pursue their goals. Under the NDIS your child may have fully funded access to daily activities, transport, therapeutic supports, behaviour supports, mobility equipment, aids, and home modifications.
Navigating this journey in the early days can seem like an overwhelming process, one in which seems to have a thousand abbreviated words (NDIS, ECIA, LAC, NDIA) that are suddenly meant to make sense. Rest assured, no one jumps in and understands straight away but there will always be someone to help and lead you down the right path. Whether that’s a parent that has walked along it before you, your GP, a paediatrician or early intervention supports. But in the meantime, here is a bit of a cheat sheet of those beginning terms to wrap your head around.
Behaviour psychology. Behaviour psychology also known as behaviour therapy is the study of behaviour and how we think, feel, behave, and learn. It can assist areas in learning, emotions, and mental health that may arise due to sensory issues, autism spectrum, anxiety, ADHD, learning delays, speech, and communication issues.
Early intervention. Early intervention is specialised support provided for young children who have a disability support or a learning support need. It may include speech therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and other types of services. Early intervention should happen as soon as possible after a child’s needs are identified, as it can have a significant impact on their ability to learn new skills and overcome challenges.
Formal support Any supports approved for funding in your NDIS plan (therapy, physical assistance, assistive technology).
Local area coordinator Will help you learn about supports that are available in your local area.
Mainstream services Are things such as education, medication, and community services.
NDIA National Disability Insurance agency. The government organisation which makes the NDIS happen. The agency supports people with a disability and manages the administration of NDIS funding.
NDIS. The National disability Insurance scheme (NDIS) provides support to individuals living with an intellectual, physical, sensory, cognitive, and psychosocial disability. It’s designed to help people get the support that they need so their skills and independence improve over time.
NDIS goals. NDIS goals are what participants want to achieve with their funding from the NDIS. They can be physical, social or independence based.
Occupational therapy. Occupational therapy is a treatment that assists individuals of all ages who have physical, sensory, and/or cognitive issues. It focuses on the improvement of motor skills, balance and coordination and works to improve one’s ability to master self-help skills and participate in day-to-day activities. Occupational therapy helps kids and adults who struggle with everyday tasks such as eating, writing, or getting dressed.
Paediatrician. A paediatrician is a medical specialist that looks after care for children or all ages. They deal with illnesses and a child’s physical, mental and behavioural development. A paediatrician can treat, refer and diagnose children.
Physiotherapy. Physiotherapy focuses on the development of physical needs, using physical techniques to improve movement patterns and gross motor skills. It’s a treatment that is needed for children who have developmental or physical disabilities. Physiotherapy uses methods such as movement training, strengthening, exercising, motor learning, stretching and the implementation of adapted equipment.
Planning meeting When you meet with a NDIS planner or local area coordinator to give information about the NDIS participant, their support needs, and their goals. This will determine what their NDIS plan will look like and what funds and services will be provided.
Speech therapy. Speech therapy is a treatment that can improve communication skills. It assists with the development of speaking, listening, understanding language, reading, writing, social skills, stuttering, using voice and difficulties with swallowing and drinking. It is performed by a speech language pathologist (SLPs) which are often referred to as speech therapists.