If your little one has been diagnosed with a disability, or you are concerned about their development, it is important to get help early. Here’s what you need to know.
What is ‘normal’ development?
In the early years, children develop, learn and grow at an extraordinary rate. This is usually a wonderful and exciting time, but parents sometimes worry that their child is not meeting the ‘normal’ developmental milestones such as rolling over, sitting up, walking or talking.
Try not to compare your child’s development to other children you know, or rely solely on advice from friends and family about the milestones your little one should be reaching. Instead, look for reliable sources of information on child development at different ages, such as the Raising Children Network’s Development Tracker articles.
If your little one doesn’t meet a developmental milestone at the expected age, most often there would be no cause for concern. All children develop differently, and at their own rate – and the range of what is considered ‘normal’ development is quite broad. However, sometimes missing a developmental milestone can be an early sign of disability or developmental delay.
Trust your instincts
You know your child better than anyone else, so if you feel concerned with your little one’s development, talk to your GP or child and family health nurse. They will be able to assess your child’s health and development, provide advice and refer you to a specialist to diagnose whether your child has, or is at risk of, disability or a developmental delay.
Early intervention – it’s important
Children with disability really benefit from early intervention – and the earlier, the better. ‘Early intervention’ means starting to work on your child’s developmental, health and support needs as early as possible.
Early intervention services give specialised support to children and families in the early years (from birth to school entry) – from social and support networks and therapy (such as speech pathology or physiotherapy) to help accessing services like kindergarten and child care.
The Raising Children Network has some great information and resources about early intervention for children with disability.
Children with disability may be eligible for funding through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for services such as early intervention programs and therapies. For more information about the eligibility requirements for NDIS funding, visit www.ndis.gov.au/people-disability/access-requirements or call the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) on 1800 800 110.
Where to get help
The Australian Government offers early intervention services to children through two key programs:
- Helping Children with Autism (HCWA)
- Better Start for Children with Disability (Better Start).
For more information visit the Department of Social Services website.