Early intervention simply means doing things as early as possible in order to achieve the best result. Early Childhood Intervention (also known as ECI) is the term used to describe the service and supports that children and their families receive during the early years, when the child is developing most rapidly.
Receiving a diagnosis or noticing that your child is not developing well can be a frightening time. All children need help and guidance as they learn, grow and develop. When a child has a developmental delay or disability, they often need more assistance than other children to reach their full potential.
What happens during the early years is of crucial importance for every child’s development. Children learn more quickly during their early years than at any other time in life, making these years most important for learning and development, than any other stage of their life.
Experience shows us that when a child is able to access intervention as early as possible, the positive effects for their learning and development are significantly increased. These positive effects include helping children to participate in school, friendships and recreation opportunities, and to have fewer issues in the future. The sooner you seek support, the better the outcomes for your child and your family.
Research also shows that not only do children learn best from the adults who have the deepest relationships and spend the most time with them, but they also learn best in in everyday situations. A good early childhood practitioner will partner with families to build on the learning opportunities already being provided in your child’s everyday life such as home, the early childhood and school settings, the park, shops or wherever you and your family spend time together.
Children develop at different rates and so developmental delay is when a child’s development is significantly (many months) behind that of other children of similar age. For instance, you may have concerns that your baby is very slow to feed or seems not to attend to you or to toys or is not walking or starting to say a few words by two years of age. For other children, a delay may not become apparent until they are at kindergarten or preprimary.
Developmental delay means exactly that; the child needs more time and practice to learn skills in one or more areas. If your child has developmental delay, they have the same needs as other children for warm, secure, nurturing and stimulating environments in which to learn and grow, however they may need extra time and some help to develop skills. This is where early intervention can be of great benefit. Some children have developmental delay early on, and then catch up as they grow older. Others may need support and assistance over their lifetime.
Disability refers to any continuing condition that restricts everyday activities. Disability affects development, learning and behaviour, which can limit a childs ability to engage in and participate in everyday routines and activities.
Examples of disabilities that can affect young children include; cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, vision and hearing impairment. The impact on everyday skills can vary greatly between children. Some disabilities may be difficult for others to notice, while others can affect a child more significantly. If you are concerned that your child may have a disability you should immediately see your family GP or Maternal Health nurse, or call your local NDIS Early Childhood Partner.
Reimagine Australia are national experts in ‘best practice’ in early childhood intervention. Best Practice simply means method or technique that has been accepted as being the most effective. To get the best results for your child it is important to seek help as soon as you possibly can.
Best practice in early childhood intervention acknowledges that families know their child best, and are the most successful ‘teachers’ for their child. Research shows that a child will make the greatest progress if the services and supports they receive are focused on building the skills of their parents and caregivers, who have the most powerful influence on their child’s development. This is known as a ‘family-centred’ approach.
Your daily family routines and activities are the nuts and bolts of both your day and your child’s day. Family routines include everyday activities such as waking up, getting dressed and going places.
Routines and everyday activities are a perfect opportunity for your child to practice and build their skills with your support. Many routines happen every day, or many times a day, providing lots of learning opportunities and practice for your child.
Early childhood intervention should fit in as much as possible with your daily routines. It should feel part of what you would want to be doing, not extra work for you.
Reimagine Australia, as ECIA, have developed a set of national guidelines for early childhood intervention practitioners on best practice, known as The National Guidelines for Best Practice in Early Childhood Intervention. These guidelines help early childhood intervention practitioners work in a way that supports the best outcomes for children with developmental delay and/or disability, and their families. The NDIS have used our national guidelines as the basis for their early childhood approach for children aged 0 to 6 years of age.
The guidelines fall across key best practice area’s and are written for early childhood practitioners, using clinical language that may not be easily understood by families, so have adapted them for you below.