Early childhood intervention practitioners are professionals who work with children and families. They can provide support, assessment, advice and strategies to promote your child’s development and learning. There are many
practitioners who work with children with disability or developmental delay and their families. A few of the most common practitioners that you might work with to support your child’s development are;
Some early childhood intervention services use a “Key Worker” approach when working with families. This is when one key therapist
becomes the primary point of contact for the family and works with them very closely to develop a strong, positive, ongoing relationship. You can ask about having a key worker and how best it will work for you.
The role of the key worker is to work directly with your family to plan and deliver services that promote learning opportunities within your everyday routines or activities. The key worker calls in other team members when required so that your family has access to the other practitioners in your early intervention ‘team’, as needed. For example, if a family has a physiotherapist as the key worker and the family
requires support with a specialised area such as drinking safely at mealtimes, then a speech pathologist will be brought in to assist with this. In addition to providing early childhood intervention, the key worker can help families with access to other services and supports, such as planning to start school.
Occupational therapists, or OT’s, work with you to help your child participate in and build independence in everyday activities such as; dressing, mealtimes, learning and play. This may involve; helping your child to use their hands to reach, hold and manipulate objects during everyday activities; providing specialised equipment (e.g. hand splints, wheelchairs, mealtime equipment, bathing equipment) to assist in
access, participation and safety; providing advice about toys, activities and games suitable for your child; and recommending adaptations to their environment in home, school or day care. Occupational therapists can also support a child who may have social, emotional, sensory or behavioural challenges that impact on their comfort, sense of security and interactions with those around them.
Physiotherapists work with you and help your child to actively participate in movement skills such as sitting to play and moving between positions (such as from lying to sitting and walking around their environment). Physiotherapists support parents and carers with strategies for positioning, carrying and encouraging overall motor development. They also focus on fitness and the skills required for recreation and chosen sports. For some children, specialised equipment may be considered to support their development, position or mobility.
Some examples include; orthotics (shoe inserts), walking frames, wheelchairs, support when lying down and recreational equipment such as bike modifications.
Speech Pathologists, or SP’s, work with you to help your child learn skills to communicate and to process information. Information and support is provided to families on how to build effective communication environments, and to help children with information processing and interaction skills. Speech Pathologists help children develop their social skills and can provide support if there are difficulties in eating
and drinking. Sometimes alternative methods of communicating such as using signs, a communication board or specialised device (for example a PODD communication book) will be recommended to assist the child to communicate (or similar).
Psychologists are experts in the ways people think, behave and learn. They can work with families to help them understand your child might learn best, and to understand why your child might behave in a certain way. They can also provide support and strategies to help in your child in different environments.
Social workers provide counselling and support for families. They can provide information about what services and supports are available and can help family choose the most appropriate services. Social Workers can also provide information for parents who wish to meet other families with similar experiences.
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND CARE (ECEC) EDUCATOR/TEACHER
An ECEC Educator or Teacher provides education and care for children as part of an education and care service such as a preschool, long day care, family day care or out of school hours care service. Educators have knowledge of children’s learning in the context of a social early childhood education and care setting.
It is also important to have a doctor/General Practitioner (GP) and /or a Paediatrician (doctor who specialises in the health of babies, children and adolescents), who can develop a positive and ongoing relationship with you. Your GP will be able to help co-ordinate your child’s healthcare, advise and refer you to specialists, and be able to refer you for therapy funding. Your GP can also refer you to a Paediatrician who specialises in children’s health and development.
Other Helpful People
- Audiologists who specialise in hearing and listening skills for your child
- Auditory Verbal Therapists who specialise in teaching hearing impaired children to speak clearly
- Dieticians who specialise in nutrition and diet
- Podiatrists who specialise in feet, foot posture and shoe fitting
- Orthoptists and Developmental or Behavioural Optometrists who specialise in vision
Children often benefit from a combination of therapies – this is called a multidisciplinary approach. And children often need different therapies or therapy combinations at different stages of their development.
Remember, not every child needs to have assistance from all of these practitioners. Your team may be small, or large depending on the needs of your child and your family.