What is a key worker? The key worker model in NDIS early childhood early intervention
You may have heard about the ‘key worker’ model in NDIS early childhood intervention. This is a family-centred approach where a single early childhood intervention specialist acts as the one point of contact for young children living with disability.
With qualifications in allied health or education, the key worker is the main therapy provider who collaborates in a team but takes the lead role in providing support across all the areas that your child needs to achieve their goals. Evidence shows this method of service delivery is one of the best ways to manage a child’s therapy needs.
We thought it might be helpful to read about a real-life family we’re currently supporting using a key worker, to help illustrate how this approach works in practice and the fantastic results that can be achieved!
Meet the Williams-Gorissen family
Madden Williams-Gorissen is a happy four-year-old child who lives with his mum, Amy, dad and two siblings, in Sydney. He requires OT therapy for autism, and receives support in multiple areas of his development, including his speech and articulation, emotional regulation, and social skills.
His key worker, Shaila Pezerovic-Marta, is a highly qualified early childhood specialist. Holding a Master of Special and Inclusive Education and a Bachelor of Teaching, Shaila has taught children in early childhood setting for 16 years.
Shaila has been working with Madden and his family since February 2022. She says Madden enjoys playing with cars and dinosaurs, which she often incorporates into his therapy sessions.
“Madden likes to give everything a go, and in recent times he’s become fantastic at playing board games,” Shaila says.
Why Madden uses a key worker
When Shaila first met Amy, she explained the benefits for families of having a key worker, instead of multidisciplinary team care. One of the major benefits is the ability to access the services your child needs through one single service provider, rather than through a range of individual professionals.
If your child requires you to access many different services, the traditional multidisciplinary approach would see you engaging with a range of allied health professionals. They’ll work together to deliver comprehensive care in an integrated team approach.
The transdisciplinary key worker model is similar to a multidisciplinary approach but provides an alternative that is highly family-centred and suitable for early childhood intervention. One primary therapist can provide comfort to families that a consistent approach is being taken and reduce confusion. This model is also the recommended best-practice NDIS approach for children with developmental delays and disability.
The key worker model is also beneficial for families with limited funding, allowing them to access multiple supports more affordably.
“Amy couldn’t understand why any parent would choose anything other than the key worker approach,” Shaila explains.
“She thought it was a fantastic idea, especially for children on the autism spectrum who sometimes find it difficult having multiple therapists in their life. Amy wanted the same therapy for her older son, however the key worker approach is only offered to children under seven years.”
How Shaila supports Madden
As a key worker, Shaila is Madden’s main therapist and point of contact for the family and his teacher. Backed by her expertise in the early childhood space, she supports Madden in all areas of his development using a variety of strategies. This allows Madden to build a trusting relationship with her.
“This is done throughout the day, every day, if things come up and we need to consult each other,” Shaila explains.
She’s worked on tools, resources, support strategies and guidance in all of Madden’s everyday environments. Shaila collaborates and shares her ideas and knowledge with Madden’s classroom teachers and his family to ensure there’s consistency and stability in all his supports.
Madden’s achievements alongside his key worker
In his classroom at school, Madden is well supported and has become more confident. He’s now able to regulate his behaviour and is readily interacting with other children. Madden’s comprehension and clarity of speech are improving, and he’s learnt to turn take through playing a variety of board games with his peers. He’s also become more accepting of trying new foods.
Being a key worker is extremely rewarding for Shaila.
“You build close relationships and empower families to continue supporting their child, even when you’re not present,” she says.
“The strategies and techniques are always individual to the child, and can be incorporated into the everyday family routine. As a key worker, it’s also wonderful to work with a team of different early intervention disciplines and come up with the best possible plan of support for a family.”
Talk to us today about our key worker service
For further details or to access our key worker therapy services, contact Ability Action Australia’s concierge team on 1800 238 958 or fill out our easy online referral form. You can also email us at email@example.com.