The problem with early intervention…

15 Nov

Due to the numerous unknowns that await a child with special needs, the criteria for some (certainly not all) early intervention services are more lenient than those for older children.  This is (I assume) primarily because it is impossible to tell how these children will develop in the following years.  Some will “catch up” to their same-age peer group, while others will fall further behind.

header_eiAn example of this, is the Early Childhood Development Programme (ECDP) run in Queensland, Australia, for children with special needs.  The ECDP is attached to a special school, and provides playgroup, kindergarten, and prep services for children with special needs.  The ECDP is a free service, and is offered for children with any special needs – from things such as developmental delays, physical disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, to profound impairments.

Whilst this is a brilliant service, and I can’t speak highly enough of the ECDP my son attends, there does seem to be one problem – which has recently been brought to light… The playgroup is fantastic for the children, and often having children with a range of disabilities is a good thing – there is no comparison of abilities, and the other parents can relate to you, as they usually have a “general” understanding of some of what you have been through.

Recently a problem arose due to the fact that there is a range of abilities and special needs in the class, ranging from some that appear reasonably mild to some that are more obvious and a little more difficult to control.  A fellow mum, and someone I consider a good friend, began to feel that because of the behaviours displayed by her son (who has autism), that he was “worse” than others in the group.  This has been very upsetting for her, as she always found it a very welcome environment in the past.  These feelings then grew to worry and stress that when her son was older he would be too much for the school staff to handle, and that he would be the worst in the school, etc.

Now, the reason that the ECDP, and other early intervention groups with loose entry criteria contributes to this problem is that when the children move up into the school, they are re-assessed, and must meet a very strict criteria – in actual fact, the majority of the children in the ECDP playgroup won’t be classed as having seveintervre enough disabilities to attend the special school. So the playgroup is not in any way a representative sample of the school environment.  Many of the children in the playgroup will receive so much benefit from the ECDP that they will be able to attend mainstream school.  The children who attend the special school will generally be, for lack of a better word, “worse”, than the majority of the children in the playgroup.

In special needs circles, use of the words “better” and “worse” are not well received, and is highly offensive to tell someone “it’s okay, the kids at the school are much worse than this, your son won’t be as bad as the worst we have”.

Everyone wants to do what is best for their child, regardless of whether or not they have extra needs.  More early intervention services are needed, but maybe one of the biggest ones that has been overlooked is the need for parent (counselling) services.  Parents can do much more for their children if they are looked after too…


Posted by on November 15, 2013 in Uncategorized


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2 responses to “The problem with early intervention…

  1. Shan Gourley

    November 16, 2013 at 12:10 am

    I particularly like the last sentence here. It is something I have said to parents when I was nursing children. You have to look after you as you are no good to them when you are shattered/tired/emotional/past it or whatever negative emotion one can insert here. Our children are our most valued treasures but their parents need to be treasured as well. In saying this it is often hard to know what to say to the parent. Sometimes no matter what we say it is taken with a negative connotation. Us with the best intentions of boosting them then feel we have upset them even more. Then when we get that glare or an unleashing of “you have no idea what you are talking about”. Receive this tirade with love and acceptance as be assured we have helped them release so much emotion and negativity they sometimes have no idea what to do with. It really has nothing to do with us or what we have said to them. They just need an ear to HEAR what THEY need. Tina, you are a great mother to one of the sweetest little boys I know. He gets that from his parents.

  2. Carolyn

    April 17, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    I totally get that. I guess you could call us “lucky” in that we were told early on that Samara would “qualify” for special school. But at the same time, who likes being reminded that their child is “special” enough to need it? And really, do any of us want our children to be compared to another as better than or worse than? They all have their own intrinsic value. And they are all “just” not better or worse. They are “just” themselves. Does there need to be all this comparing?
    Having said that, to be stuck in a no mans land of not knowing if your child will be “bad” enough to qualify for special schooling, when you KNOW they will not cope with mainstream, is simply wrong. I understand why they do what they do, but when those who don’t “qualify” are basically left to linger in the mainstream system, with maybe a couple of hours teacher aid time a week, are we really then creating children whose needs will continue to push them further and further towards qualifying for special school in the future?


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