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The ABCs of the early childhood approach

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The early childhood approach is the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s (NDIS) nationally consistent approach to working with children younger than seven years of age who have a developmental delay or disability – as well as their families.

Here’s what to do if you believe your child, or a child you care for, fits into either category.

What is the early childhood approach?

A child’s early years are very important for setting up how they will learn and develop in the future. The NDIS’ early childhood approach was developed with the help of experts in early childhood intervention to give children with developmental delay or disability the best possible start in life through services that promote their development, their (and their family’s) wellbeing, and their participation in the community.

Children younger than six years with a developmental delay may be eligible for the NDIS under the early intervention requirements. You can find more information from the NDIS about children younger than six years old with developmental delay here. Or, click here to learn more about early intervention.

Children who do not fully meet the definition of developmental delay and have developmental concerns can also be supported through the early childhood approach. An early childhood partner or local area coordinator can help parents connect with other government and community supports.

What the NDIS early childhood approach sets out to do

The early childhood approach puts a child’s parent or carer at the centre of supporting their child’s development, and aims to:

  • provide timely support to ensure that children and families are able to access the supports they need
  • provide information about best practice early childhood intervention supports and how a family can help their child
  • increase a family’s confidence and capacity to manage and respond to their child’s support needs
  • increase a child’s ability to do activities they need or want to do throughout their day
  • increase a child’s inclusion and participation in mainstream and community settings like childcare or recreation
  • provide information about, and referrals to, other support services if needed, like parent support groups

The early childhood approach is implemented by early childhood partners. These are local organisations that the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) funds to deliver the early childhood approach.

What to do if you think your child – or a child you care for – may have a developmental delay or disability

If you have concerns about your child’s development, you can first speak to your doctor, child health nurse, or other health professional. They will help you work out what supports you and your child may need, and they may connect you with a NDIS early childhood partner.

You don’t need a referral or diagnosis from a medical professional to access support through the NDIS’ early childhood approach.

How does the early childhood approach work?

The early childhood approach can start with you receiving information, connections to mainstream and community services, and support from allied health professionals. You can also get support and advice from the NDIS’ early childhood partners.

Your child doesn’t need a diagnosis to get these supports, which the NDIS calls early connections. The NDIS’ early childhood partners will connect you to the services that best meet the needs of your child, which may include connection to early supports or help to apply to the NDIS.

If your child meets the eligibility criteria and becomes an NDIS participant, the NDIS’ early childhood partners will help you and your child with your NDIS plan.

The early childhood approach also includes community capacity building. This means the NDIS works with community and mainstream services, like childcare, to increase their awareness and ability to support children with delays in their development or with disability.

What if there are no early childhood partners in your area?

Early childhood partners are not located in remote and very remote areas. If you live in an area that doesn’t have an early childhood partner, and you have concerns about your child’s development or disability, you should start by speaking with your doctor, child health nurse, early childhood educator or other health professional.

Click here for further NDIS resources for families and carers.

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My Plan Manager acknowledges the objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

My Plan Manager acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to Elders both past and present.
© My Plan Manager 2020
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