Empowering families to support children with disability
After training as an early childhood teacher, Alice worked in a range of teaching and carer jobs. But it wasn’t until she provided in-home care for children with disability that she realised where she wanted to help.
“Doing that work was how I found my passion for working with families - particularly vulnerable families - of children with disability,” she says.
“For families that can slip through the cracks, we need to give them access to education and community to help them live their best lives.”
Now a Child Development specialist working in partnership with the NDIS as part of the Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) program, Alice helps families build resilience and capacity by providing a gateway to services and helping them feel comfortable as part of mainstream community.
What is the ECEI?
The Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) approach is available to children under 7 with a diagnosed disability, a diagnosed or suspected developmental delay and their families. Child development specialists like Alice work with children and their families to build NDIS plans and engage with the therapeutic supports they need to live big lives.
Alice says early intervention is crucial to engaging with children and their families at a pivotal time in their learning and growth.
“Early intervention is a beautiful window of time where, if we can provide them with support, they can go on to lead rich lives where the parental concerns of the early years can be overcome.”
“With children 0-6 it may be too early to identify what their diagnosis may be, but we can’t wait for the diagnosis and miss out on the opportunities of those critical years.”
Short-term intervention available without a diagnosis
Alice says she is humbled to be part of the short-term intervention programs available to children who don’t meet the requirements to access the NDIS but do have developmental concerns or their family simply needs support.
“I’ll meet with the family and find out what’s going on for them by doing a needs assessment. Sometimes a child may not have a diagnosed disability, but they’re really struggling, and I can help develop the parent’s capacity with new strategies on how to support their children.”
Alice feels strongly that support and services for vulnerable children and their families shouldn’t have to wait for a diagnosis.
“Often these parents and carers are looking for some hope and to be heard. I love that we can acknowledge those families and provide services and support - without a label attached - so they feel heard and feel helped,” she says.
“Every parent should know: you don’t have to have a diagnosis to get support. If you need support but you’re not sure where you fit in, we can help.”
What help looks like without a diagnosis
Alice recently supported a family with a 5-year-old child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The family doesn't meet the NDIS criteria as they aren’t Australian citizens and were desperate to find help for their child.
“I’ve helped her find a school for next year, and we’re looking at more affordable therapy services offered through student training and other options.”
Alice also identified that the mother was struggling to connect with services as English is not her first language.
“She was struggling to make calls, so we’ve found some English classes that we hope will empower her to advocate for her child and understand the supports available through the education system. It’s amazing the difference a day can make, to give someone that little bit of hope, and make a plan for the future.”
Building a parenting toolkit
Alice says empowering parents and building confidence is key.
“Spending time with parents is so important. Research shows that 1 hour of parental support and training equates to 84 hours of child-based therapy, delivered by the parents throughout the course of the week. Children are much more receptive with their parents and in their natural settings. By giving them the tools to succeed, their child will reap the benefits.”
“It’s really rewarding. No one should feel overwhelmed about getting support for their child and their family.”