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Early childhood intervention

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Early childhood intervention is the process of providing early specialised support and services for children with a disability and/or developmental delay.
  • An early childhood intervention support program can tailor therapy options to suit both your child’s and your family’s needs.
  • The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) can help children and their families access services and find support.
  • There are specific eligibility requirements for you to access early childhood intervention for your child through the NDIS.
  • Your early childhood partner may recommend that you consider applying to the NDIS on your child’s behalf to access early intervention services.

What is early childhood intervention?

Early childhood intervention is the process of providing early specialised support and services for infants and young children with disability and/or developmental delay, and their families. The aim is to promote development, well-being and community participation.

These services support children with a disability or developmental delay from birth to school entry, while also supporting their families.

Services can include:

  • special education
  • therapy
  • counselling
  • information and parent education
  • service planning and coordination
  • support to access services such as kindergarten and childcare.

These services help parents and families by providing knowledge and skills to meet the individual needs of your child and support them to engage with experiences and activities.

Services apply a family-centred approach, recognising the importance of working in partnership with the family to build on your child’s strengths, and help them develop new skills that assist their development.

Benefits of early childhood intervention

The earlier your child can access appropriate intervention, the better the outcome is likely to be. Early intervention lays the foundations for your child’s future development. The experiences your child has in their early years will have a major effect on their future health, even when they are adults.

High quality early childhood support gives children the best start in life, providing important opportunities to learn and develop. Early childhood intervention can also help your child make friends, develop independence and learn new routines.

The early years are also critical for your whole family. This is when your family can best begin to learn how to support and nurture your child, how to meet their needs, and how to adapt to having a child with a disability or a developmental delay.

An early childhood intervention support program can tailor therapy options to suit both your child’s and your family’s needs and develop your child’s skills in particular areas.

Other benefits of an early childhood intervention support program include:

  • Engaging staff with special training in disability, as well as their area of professional expertise
  • Preparing your child for primary school
  • Creating a supportive environment where your child feels comfortable
  • Creating opportunities for your child to meet with other children who don’t have a disability
  • Assessing your child’s progress at regular intervals

What is an Early Childhood Intervention Partner?

‘Early Childhood Intervention Partner’ is the name given to your first contact point for support. They are a gateway for parents with a child who has a disability or developmental delay. They can discuss with you the most appropriate supports that could benefit your child. This includes providing you with information and may involve referring you to other supports in your community. They will also assist you to find an early childhood intervention provider who will work with you and your child.

You can access programs in many locations, including hospitals, community health services, private clinics, at your child’s preschool or in your home.

How to access early intervention

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) aims to help children and their families access services and to link into their communities.

The NDIS provides early intervention for eligible children with developmental delay across Australia.

Here are some of the questions you may need to answer to check if your child is eligible through the NDIS:

  • How old is your child? Different support services are available for children of different ages.
  • Does your child have an impairment that’s likely to be permanent, or a developmental delay?
  • Will early intervention supports help your child? For example, because it means your child will need less disability support in the future and their ability to function will improve.
  • Is the NDIS the best way for your child to access help? For example, because their regular school or your local hospital does not have the services your child needs.

To receive funded early intervention, your child must also meet certain citizenship and residency requirements.

Your Early Childhood Intervention Partner will help you access early intervention. They will provide you with a referral form that you will need to fill out. Completing this referral form will start the process of accessing funding for your child’s early intervention services.

If you are eligible, your Early Childhood Intervention Partner will contact you to make an appointment for your child’s planning meeting. If you are not eligible you can still get information and referral to access supports and services, or you can request to have the decision reviewed. For more information, visit the NDIS website.

Choosing early childhood intervention programs

There is no single therapy or early intervention that suits all children — every child will respond to their early intervention therapy in a different way. The most important thing is to focus on what best suits your child and your family.

Here are some things to consider:

  • A service’s quality rating
  • Your child’s age
  • The times and days your child needs care
  • Where a service is located – for example, if it’s close to home or a family member’s workplace
  • Your religious and cultural requirements
  • Any health care needs.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2022


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This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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