Early Intervention Programme

Early Intervention Programme

Children with disability really benefit from early intervention – the earlier, the better. But it can be hard to know which early intervention is right for your child. A good early intervention will be family focused, well structured and based on reliable evidence.

What Is Early Intervention?

Early intervention means doing things as early as possible to work on your child's developmental, health and support needs.
Early intervention services give specialised support to children and families in the early years (from birth to school entry). This support might include special education, therapy, counselling, service planning and help getting universal services like kindergarten and child care.
You can use early intervention services as well as services available to all children, such as child and family health services, kindergartens, community health centres, regional parenting services, child care services, play groups and occasional care.

Types Of Early Intervention

Many children with a disability can benefit from some type of early intervention (or therapy). For example:
  • Occupational therapy can help with fine motor skills, play and self-help skills like dressing and toileting.
  • Physiotherapy can help with motor skills like balance, sitting, crawling and walking.
  • Speech therapy can help with speech, language, eating and drinking skills.

Types Of Early Intervention

You can get these therapies through community health centres, hospitals, specialist disability services or early intervention services. Your GP, paediatrician or other parents can also tell you about private therapists.
Early intervention often combines specialist support and therapies. You might end up using some government-funded services as well as community service organisations and private therapists.
There are also early intervention therapies that provide specialised support for specific disabilities like autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, hearing impairment and vision impairment.
Some families also look into alternative therapies. You should research these carefully to find out what the research says about the therapy and the time and costs involved.

What To Look For In An Early Intervention

All therapies and services for children with disability should be family focused, well structured and evidence-based.
An intervention that's evidence-based has been tested to check it does what it claims to do when real people use the intervention.
Here's a list of characteristics to look for when you're choosing an early intervention. The more of these characteristics you find in a service, the better – but not all interventions will do all these things.

Family Centred

This means that the intervention:
  • Includes you and other family members so you can work alongside the professionals and learn how to help your child
  • Is flexible – it can be offered in your home as well as in other settings such as kindergartens and early intervention centres
  • Provides your family with support and guidance.

Developmentally appropriate

This means that the intervention:
  • Is specially designed for children with disability
  • Has staff who are specially trained in the intervention and services they provide
  • Develops an individual plan for your child and reviews the plan regularly
  • Tracks your child's progress with regular assessments.

Child Focused

This means the intervention:
  • Focuses on developing specific skills
  • Includes strategies to help your child learn new skills and use them in different settings
  • Prepares and supports your child for the move to school
  • Finds ways of getting your child with disability together with typically developing children (ideally of the same age).

Supportive And Structured

This means the intervention:
  • Provides a supportive learning environment – your child feels comfortable and supported
  • Is highly structured, well organised, regular and predictable.

Other Things To Think about With Early Intervention

Intensive early intervention for children with disability is the most effective kind of intervention. It's not just about the number of hours, though – it's also about the quality of those hours and how the therapy engages your child.
Different children respond in different ways to interventions, so no single program will suit all children and their families. Focus on what you want for your child and your family. Learn all you can about the available options. How will they help your child? What will they cost in dollars and time? What funding is available to help cover these costs?
There are good services that aren't funded or listed by government – for example, some home-based programs. These are usually funded by fees and fundraising. This doesn't mean they should be avoided, but the costs can be a strain for some families.
A good intervention involves regular assessment to ensure that your child is making progress. The gains might be small at first, but it all adds up. If you think your child isn't making progress, you might need to change or stop the intervention.