Jack is four years old, and before he and his family began working with Marie-Eve, one of our senior occupational therapists, he had significant delays across all areas of his development. His parents noticed that his physical skills, his language and communication, as well as his social skills and self-care skills were all limited, and not developing at the same rate as other children the same age.
“This young man had no intelligible speech, limited interest in other children, played by himself the same activity over and over, struggled with his motor skills and had meltdowns daily,” Marie-Eve says.
Without intervention, Jack’s chances of developing meaningful and lasting friendships and relationships would be limited, and his options for living independently and securing employment later on in his life would narrow.
However, Jack’s family sought help from Ability Action Australia, knowing early intervention services would help their little boy develop the skills he needs to take part in everyday activities.
What is early intervention?
Early intervention is specialised support available for both children and adults (less often), aimed at reducing the impact of a person’s impairment on their functional capacity by providing support at the earliest possible stage.
This type of support is also intended to benefit a person by reducing their future support needs. A person can meet the early intervention requirements if they:
- Are living with a disability, such as physical or intellectual, that is likely to be permanent
- Have a developmental delay and are likely to benefit from supports
Children under 7 years of age only need developmental delay to enter the early intervention NDIS program – they do not need a diagnosis, such as permanent disability.
Early intervention focuses on six key areas of a child’s development: Motor skills (fine and gross); communication and language; self-care (ability to acquire independence); social and interpersonal relationships; cognition; and emotional regulation.
Occupational therapists address these areas and help children increase their engagement in everyday activities, such as self-help tasks, participation at school, and playing.
How can early intervention with occupational therapy help my child?
Occupational therapy is life changing for many children with disability and their families. At Ability Action Australia, our therapists help participants reach important developmental milestones, and cultivate new skills needed to support their daily life and acquire independence.
Our therapist Marie-Eve’s work with Jack over the past few months has improved his life, and that of his family, significantly. She used play-based and developmental approaches to develop his joint attention, a foundation skill that allows him to stay focused and engaged. The play approach was also used to develop his communication and social skills and he now has friends.
“He interacts with others and participates in group activities, which he did not do before. During our sessions, this delightful boy has learnt about taking turns, sportsmanship, flexible thinking and perseverance when things are challenging. He also improved his motor skills, particularly his school readiness skills. We are still working hard on pencil control but he is getting better each session!”, Marie-Eve reveals.
A collaborative approach
Early intervention involves collaboration between the therapist and the family, as well as a child’s educators and other support workers. The therapist will work to educate each on how best to support the child.
With Jack, collaboration with his parents has been key to improving his overall quality of life at home. Marie-Eve provides strategies to support Jack’s emotional and sensory regulation and, as a result, the frequency and intensity of his meltdowns have both decreased.
“I also worked with the parents on a routine-based approach and our little man has developed his independence with activities of daily living like dressing, eating, toileting and sleeping,” she says.
Often Marie-Eve will also work with other allied health specialists such as speech and language pathologists, physiotherapists, psychologists, and behavioural specialists, all of whom work in collaboration with a medical team that can include a GP and a paediatrician.
Does a child need to have a diagnosed condition to be eligible for early intervention?
A child can have either a developmental delay or a formal diagnosis. To access the NDIS early intervention program, parents fill out the access request form and describe the child’s challenges; parents can either fill out this form themselves or request assistance from a health professional like an occupational therapist.
My child has already started school. Is it too late for intervention?
Early intervention will give your child the best opportunity to progress, but it is never too late to start to change things. Brain development goes on into early adulthood, so even if your child is not diagnosed until they start school, it is not too late to make a huge difference in your child’s development.
If you would like further information or to speak to us, please contact our friendly concierge service on 1800 238 958 or complete the request contact form and we will contact you at a time that suits you best.