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Childhood developmental delay and disability early intervention

In the healthcare industry, intervention means taking action or using a treatment to try to improve a condition or problem. Early childhood intervention refers to support services to help babies and young children with developmental delays or disabilities.

Many different types of interventions exist, so you and your healthcare professionals can try one or a combination of approaches to best suit you and your child’s needs.

The overall aim of early childhood intervention is to improve your child’s development and wellbeing during their early pre-school years, which is important to their ongoing learning and development.

Types of early childhood intervention
The types of support include developmental and behavioural interventions, medication and support for your family.

Intervention services can help with:

education programs
family support
kindergarten inclusion
linkages to support services
parenting support
therapy for behaviour and development
transition to kindergarten or school.
Early childhood therapies
Healthcare professionals working in early childhood intervention cover a broad range of therapeutic areas, including:

early special education
occupational therapy – helps with motor skills, play and self-help skills, such as dressing and toileting
physiotherapy – helps with motor skills such as balance, sitting, crawling and walking
speech therapy – helps with speech, language, eating and drinking skills.

For children with a disability, healthcare professionals can help to improve your child’s skills in areas such as:

dressing and toileting
eating and drinking
motor (movement) skills
sitting, crawling and walking
speech and language.

Behavioural support for your child
If you are concerned about your child’s emotions or behaviour, a good place to start is to keep a diary of situations and responses that concern you. Include information about where and when they occur. You can then discuss your concerns with specialist healthcare professionals when you see them.

For children with autism spectrum disorder, research shows that education and behavioural interventions that begin as early as possible achieve the best results for most children. Research also suggests that using intensive techniques that take time is critical to success.

Approaches based on behaviour focus on teaching children new behaviours and skills with structured techniques.

Examples of behaviour-based approaches include:

applied behaviour analysis (ABA) – a set of principles that focus on breaking down skills or behaviours into steps and teaching these with clear instructions,
rewards and repetition
Lovaas program – teaches skills for self-help, language, communication, play, early academic and socialisation skills, based on ABA
discrete trial training – teaches skills for learning, develops new skills and focuses on decreasing difficult behaviour
incidental teaching – teaches skills for language use, interpersonal interaction and learning readiness
positive behavioural support – addresses social, communication, academic and daily living skills, as well as difficult behaviour
pivotal response training – teaches social, communication and play skills.
Most research about effectiveness has focused on these and other similar behaviour-based therapies. You should be careful of therapies that claim to ‘cure’ your child.