Early childhood intervention is all about giving children with developmental delay or disability, and their families, supports to enable the child to have the best possible start in life. Through early childhood intervention, infants and young children as well as their families, can get specialised supports and services. These services aim to promote the:
- child’s development
- family and child’s wellbeing
- child taking part in their community.
The NDIA funded the development of the national guidelines on Best Practice in Early Childhood Intervention . These guidelines support early childhood intervention providers across Australia to apply best-practice approaches to early childhood intervention.
These guidelines tell us that children and families benefit the most when we base early childhood intervention on the following:
- The family is at the centre of all services and supports - the family and early childhood professionals work together in partnership. Services and supports are based on the family’s needs and choices.
- All families are different and unique - services and supports are delivered in a way that is respectful of a family’s cultural, language and social backgrounds, and their values and beliefs.
- The child is included at home and in the community - the child takes part in home and community life, with supports as needed, to create a real sense of belonging.
- The child practises and learns new skills everyday - the child learns and practises skills in the activities and daily routines of their everyday life.
- Early childhood professionals and family form a team around the child - a family works together with early childhood professionals to form a team around the child. They share information, knowledge and skills. One main person from this team, called a key worker, may be allocated to work with the family.
- Supports build everyone’s knowledge and skills - building the knowledge, skills and confidence of the family and the important people in a child’s life will have the biggest impact on a child’s learning and development.
- Services and supports work with the family on the goals they have for their child and family - early childhood professionals focus on what parents or carers want for their child and family, and work closely with the family to achieve the best outcomes for their child.
- Early childhood professionals deliver quality services and supports - early childhood professionals have qualifications and experience in early childhood development, and offer services based on sound evidence and research.
Best practice recognises that children learn and develop in natural, everyday settings. This includes their own home, and other places, such as childcare, playgroup or at kindergarten or preschool, where they play with family or friends. This means the adults they are with need information, tools and support to help the child’s development and participation. Being included in these everyday activities gives children with developmental delay or disability the same opportunities as all children. It provides them with opportunities to develop friendships, interact with others and be a part of their community.
Best practice not only takes into account broad early childhood intervention research, but also evidence relating to the needs of children with a specific diagnosis, such as autism spectrum disorder or cerebral palsy.