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03 October 2023

The NDIS early childhood approach for children under 9.

We often hear from parents of children with disability or developmental delay who feel confused about the NDIS and where to start.

We understand why. There’s a lot of information to take in and the process differs depending on your child’s age.

The early childhood approach offers a best practice approach and a clear path for obtaining supports for children and their families. Children don’t need to be eligible for the NDIS or have a diagnosis to get assistance.


The early childhood approach – giving children the best possible start in life.

The NDIS early childhood approach is a nationally consistent approach for early childhood intervention for children with developmental delay or disability and their families. It aims to give children the best possible start in life. The early childhood approach was previously called early childhood early intervention or NDIS ECEI.

Here’s what you need to know about the NDIS early childhood approach.

  •  It’s for children under 6 with developmental delay or under children under 9 with disability
  •  It may include mainstream (non-NDIS) supports, NDIS supports or a combination of both
  •  Children who don’t fully meet the definition of developmental delay but have developmental concerns can also receive support
  •  It puts the family at the centre of all services and supports
  • Children don’t need a diagnosis to get support.

The NDIS early childhood approach previously provided support to children under the age of 7 and their families. From 1 July 2023, there are progressive changes to expand the age range and include children under the age of 9.


How does the early childhood approach support children and families?

The early childhood approach can provide supports in two ways.

  1. Early connections: Connect families with the right supports and services to build on their strengths. Early connections are for children younger than 9 and their families. Children do not have to have a diagnosis or be eligible for the NDIS to access. Find out more in our Guide to early connections.
  2. NDIS early childhood supports: Early childhood intervention supports under the NDIS, provided through an NDIS Plan. Requires a diagnosis and the child must meet NDIS eligibility requirements.


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 developmental 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.


NDIS early childhood supports age change.

The NDIS has extended the age range for children with an NDIS Plan to receive support from an early childhood partner. Previously, once a child on the NDIS turned 7, they would need to transition to a local area coordinator (LAC).

Now, children on the NDIS will be supported by an early childhood partner until they turn 9 if they require support up to this age.

This change ensures that children and their families receive continued support from an early childhood partner during and after their transition to primary school. It also aligns with the World Health Organisation’s definition of young children, which encompasses children from 0 to 8 years.

The transition will take place in 2023 and 2024.


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. Your healthcare professional may connect you with an NDIS early childhood partner.

You can also contact an early childhood partner yourself. No diagnosis is necessary and your child does not have to be eligible for the NDIS to access early childhood supports.

An early childhood partner can help you apply for the NDIS if your child may benefit from NDIS supports and meets the eligibility criteria.


Getting your child’s first NDIS Plan in place.

If your child has been granted access to the NDIS, you will work with your early childhood partner to develop their NDIS Plan. This often comes with a whole new set of questions.

The team at Leap in! can help with this part of the process. We can take you through steps and suggestions for your Plan meeting like:

  •  Start to prepare early and give yourself time to think big about what your child would like to achieve
  •  Make notes and keep a list of examples in the Leap in! app so you have one easy and central place for all of your thoughts and information
  •  Encourage your key family, friends and/or support workers to join the app and connect with you so they can help with additional information
  •  Be ready to be as specific as possible to get exactly what you need from your meeting.


Helpful resources.

Guide to early connections
New early childhood approach
What does the early childhood approach look like?
Do you need early intervention?
How will early intervention help you?


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.


Originally published November 2021, updated 22 September 2023.


Further reading

A guide to early connections under the early childhood approach.

The benefits of play therapy in early intervention.

Resources for parents of children with disabilities.

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