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Early childhood intervention

4-minute read

Early childhood intervention offers intensive therapy tailored to your child to support their needs and help them develop. The earlier it is given, the better.

What is early childhood intervention?

Early intervention provides therapy, management and support for your child during the early years from birth until they begin primary school.

It provides a range of services including special education, counselling, therapies like speech or occupational therapy, family support and more.

A good early childhood intervention program will be high quality and will focus on your child’s and your family’s needs. The therapies used should be based on evidence that they work, and tailored to your family.

Programs can be delivered in many locations, including hospitals, community health services, private clinics, at your child’s preschool or in your home.

Benefits of early childhood intervention

The earlier your child can access early intervention, the better the outcome. Early intervention lays the foundations for all your child’s future development. As with all children, experiences in the early years will have a major effect on your child’s future health, even when they are adults.

Early childhood intervention will help your child’s brain develop in a way that gives them the best chance possible for the future. It will help your whole family learn how to adapt to having a child with a disability so you can support their needs as they grow up.

An early childhood intervention support program can provide great benefit to your child and your family by including you and other family members and offering care at home or in other suitable locations. It can also 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:

  • employing staff with special training in disability, as well as their area of professional expertise
  • preparing and supporting 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

How to access early intervention

To receive early intervention, your child needs to be diagnosed with a developmental delay or disability. The first step is to see your doctor. They will usually refer you to a paediatrician, who will do a series of tests and assessments and then guide you as to what early intervention therapies and services your child needs. These will aim to meet the particular needs of your child and your family.

This information will help you understand more about your child’s abilities — what they can and can’t do, and what areas of their development the early intervention will need to focus on. It will also help you plan the services your family will need to best support your child.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provides early intervention to all children aged under 7 with a developmental delay or disability. It is available across the country and is being rolled out in Western Australia. Find out if the scheme is available in your area and if your child is eligible

First step you will contact an Early Childhood Partner, who will give you information and work out your child’s support needs. They will work with your family to develop a plan that supports your child’s goals. They will explain your plan and support you to link with service providers. 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. Different therapists and healthcare professionals have different ideas about what your child needs.

The most important thing is to focus on what you want for your child. A good therapist should work closely with you and your family. They will listen to your needs, consider your views, answer your questions (no matter how many you have) and clearly explain your child’s therapy to you in a way you can understand.

Other aspects of early intervention that you will need to consider are costs, how much time the early intervention will take, how accessible the service is, whether it will meet your child’s needs, and whether it fits with your family’s goals, beliefs and values.

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

Last reviewed: June 2020


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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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