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25 November 2021

Update on changes to the NDIS early childhood approach.

Did you know that how the NDIS supports young children is changing? A new early childhood approach is underway to improve the way the NDIS supports children aged under seven.

More than 85,000 children are currently receiving NDIS or early childhood early intervention (ECEI) supports.

The changes include a new best practice approach to early childhood intervention and a clearer path for obtaining supports and services.


The new early childhood approach.

The NDIS has renamed “early childhood early intervention” or ECEI to “early childhood intervention”.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • It’s for children under seven
  • It’s a nationally consistent approach for children with developmental delay or disability
  • The early childhood approach may include mainstream (non-NDIS) supports, NDIS supports or a combination of both
  • Children who don’t fully meet the definition of developmental delay who have developmental concerns can also receive support
  • Children do not need a diagnosis to get support. 

Top tip: The NDIS has released new guidance on interpreting the term developmental delay at Access to the NDIS – early intervention requirements.


Giving children the best start in life.

Early childhood intervention supports children with developmental delay or disability and their families so the child gets the best possible start in life.

It aims to provide specialised support and services that promote development, support the wellbeing of the family and child, and help the child participate in the community.

There are new Best practice guidelines for early childhood intervention that consider broad early intervention research and evidence relating to the needs of children with specific diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder or cerebral palsy.

The guidelines say children and families benefit the most when:

  1. The family is at the centre of services and supports
  2. Services and supports respect the family’s culture, language and social background
  3. The child is included at home and in the community
  4. The child practises and learns new skills every day
  5. Early childhood professionals and families form a team around the child
  6. Supports build everyone’s knowledge and skills
  7. Services and supports work with the goals of the family and child
  8. Qualified, experienced early childhood professionals provide support and services based on evidence and research.

Research shows that children learn and develop in everyday settings such as home and playgroup. Adults with them need information, tools and support to help the child’s development and participation.


How to access the early childhood approach.

If you have concerns about your child’s development, contact your doctor, maternal and child health nurse, or other health professional. They will help determine what supports you and your child need.

If your child has a developmental delay, developmental concerns or disability, your healthcare professional may connect you with an NDIS early childhood partner.


NDIS early childhood partners.

Early childhood partners are local organisations funded by the NDIS to deliver the early childhood approach. They have experience and clinical expertise working with young children with developmental delays or disability and their families.

They can:

  • Provide information about supports and providers in your community
  • Connect you to best practice early intervention service providers as well as mainstream and community services
  • Use observation and assessment, along with parent input, to understand the impact of the child’s delay or disability
  • Identify if your child will benefit from short-term early intervention and if so, provide appropriate initial supports
  • Identify any long-term specialised support needs and help you request access to the NDIS if required
  • Monitor your child’s progress.

Note: Early childhood partners do not complete assessments for diagnosis.

You can search for an early childhood partner on the NDIS website. If there are none in your area, speak with your doctor or health professional, or contact your nearest NDIA office.


Other initiatives underway.

The new early intervention approach is a work in progress from the NDIS with plans for other related initiatives to roll out over the coming year.

These include:

  • Improved early childhood training for planners and delegates
  • Working with state and territory governments to identify gaps experienced by families and carers when looking for support for their child
  • Continuing to work with the sector to understand emerging evidence and best practice interventions
  • Giving families more information and support when leaving the NDIS
  • Strengthening pathways for NDIS access decisions for children under seven.

Note: Planned indicative fund bands for children with autism will not proceed.


Helpful resources.

Supporting young children and their families
Changes to improve the NDIS for children and families
New early childhood approach
Access the early childhood operational guideline
Early intervention best practice guidelines
Access to the NDIS – early intervention requirements


How Leap in! can help you make the most of your NDIS Plan.

Our experienced plan managers are here to answer your questions and provide support. Our award-winning plan management app makes it easy to manage your NDIS funding in real time, keep your spending on track and get alerts when you are underspending or overspending in any budget.

Call us on 1300 05 78 78 or sign up to Leap in! plan management today.


Further reading

Early Childhood Partners: What they do and how to choose the right one.

The benefits of play therapy in early intervention.

Resources for parents of children with disabilities.