Early intervention for children

The early years are critical in setting up the foundations for how a child learns and develops in later life. The Early Childhood Early Intervention () approach has been designed to deliver long-term outcomes for children aged up to six years old with developmental delay or disability. The aim of the approach is to give children the best possible start in life.

Rolling out the approach has been influenced by transitional arrangements agreed at the request of respective states and territories. A full picture of the impact and benefit of this approach will not be possible for some years. will contribute to greater sustainability by reducing lifetime costs to the Scheme and will also help to build the capacity of the mainstream system.

The Agency has worked with some of Australia’s leading early childhood intervention practitioners and researchers to design a best-practice approach that is family-centred and importantly, supports children to achieve good outcomes on a case-by-case basis.

“Evidence shows that timely support for a child with developmental delay before the age of six can significantly change that child’s developmental trajectory and overall quality
of life,” inaugural NDIA CEO David Bowen said.

“The short, medium and long-term benefits to children from such support are proven to be significant. Effective early intervention also reduces the medium to long-term liability on the NDIS.”

At 30 June 2017, there were 15 Partners in the Community delivering services across Tasmania, , Queensland and Victoria, as well as a pilot in the Nepean Blue Mountains region in NSW. There are transitional arrangements in place in South Australia. In remote and very remote areas, there is a community-by-community approach to . Further Partners delivering services will be appointed in line with Scheme rollout.

Under the approach, a child and their family will be referred to a specialist early childhood access Partner who will discuss their needs and determine the appropriate supports to help them achieve their individual goals. Supports may include information services, emotional support or referral to mainstream services, or longer-term more intensive supports as part of a funded NDIS plan.

Australia’s first national diagnostic guideline for autism

The Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism () has released the first draft national diagnostic guideline for autism for consultation and feedback.

There is strong evidence to suggest that the way health professionals diagnose autism varies considerably across Australia, both within and between states and territories. The draft guideline aims to create greater consistency in diagnostic practices across the country to ensure individuals with autism and their families can be assured of quality and knowledgeable advice.

The project, part funded by the NDIA, is led by Professor Andrew Whitehouse, Chief Research Officer at the .

“Developing a national diagnostic protocol is a critical step to ensuring consistent and equitable access to autism diagnosis across Australia for both children and adults,” Professor Whitehouse said.

While access to the NDIS is not dependent on a diagnosis, the draft guidelines are expected to lead to better evidence around the type of supports that will most benefit a person with autism depending on the functional impact and who is best placed to provide this support – be it the education system, health system, community more generally or the NDIS.

Amy and her son Alexander standing in a backyard.

Alexander is one of 1,028 NDIS participants who had exited the Scheme at 30 June 2017.

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