A Guide to Early Childhood Intervention (ECEI)
A Guide to ECEI (Early Childhood Early Intervention)
What is the ECEI?
The Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) is a support and educational system developed by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). ‘Using its core approaches of maximising choice and control and individualised service provision’ (Purcal, Hill, Meltzer, Boden and Fisher, 2018) this program provides timely, accessible, equitable and individualised intervention. It offers all children under the age of 7 who have a developmental delay and/or disability and their families support through information and referral, short-term intervention supports, or through individualised funding and tailored, multi-disciplinary, collaborative ‘team around the child’ services.
- Quick access to support and early intervention which is the ‘best way to support a child with a disability or developmental delay’
- Ensure parents/caregivers can provide the child with a disability with experiences or opportunities that allow the child to participate meaningfully in their lives, D. Quinn, D. Ballardin & S.Davies (2012)
- Better long-term outcomes regardless of the initial diagnosis
- Empowering individuals to make decisions
How can it help a child with disabilities?
There are a myriad of ways the ECEI can assist. It can provide both long and short-term support as well as strategies for children and their families, ‘in particular, vulnerable families.’ p.17 D. Quinn, D. Ballardin & S.Davies (2012). ‘It offers helpful and relevant information, an in-depth look at your child’s needs and how to meet them and also ongoing monitoring of the child’s progress.’ As a result of participation in this program, a person with a disability and their carers are then equipped to make choices about which services best meet their needs, leading to a higher chance for independence and better management.
What are the benefits as well as the disadvantages of using this program?
ECEI services comprise practitioners with suitable expertise and qualifications who use intervention strategies that are grounded in research and sound clinical reasoning. Evidence-based practice involves a balance of empirically supported interventions, clinical expertise and client or family values, preferences and circumstances.
You will be connected to a partner who works with the NDIS. You can contact this partner directly: https://www.ndis.gov.au/contact
The partner will work with you to understand your child’s unique situation. They will look at the child’s history and make some suggestions based on their expertise and what they can observe, discussing a variety of support options and assisting you in taking the next step/s. Your partner can help you to set and work towards goals in regard to your child’s behaviours and developmental delays.
Another major benefit is that caretakers do not need a formal diagnosis from a GP or psychiatrist to be eligible for support.
As with anything, there are a number of disadvantages inherent in this program. Some of these include: The numbers of children taking part in the program are high, a lack of education on the part of parents – i.e they do not know which services they require and poor quality of ECI supports. ‘Reasonable and necessary supports are not adequately considering the needs and capacity of parents and carers, children living in remote areas, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children, children from culturally and linguistically diverse families and children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.’ J. Benveniste, Parent Wellbeing South Australia (2013).
Many families have found it difficult to comprehend a fragmented highly complex system. Some families have also reported long waiting times and delays and communication issues as well as funding and service gaps. The more disadvantaged (socially, culturally or financially) families seem to be most affected by these issues.
‘Another disadvantage is regarding the ECEI eligibility criteria, which is said to be unclear in parts, leading to confusion and misinterpretation.’ Commonwealth of Australia, (2017)
What does the research say about the effectiveness of the ECEI?
The research is consistent and shows that providing children and families with well-integrated early intervention support leads to better long term outcomes for children. It is important for families to keep in mind that ‘best practice entails a family centred team around the child, a collaborative approach to intervention, preferably with the family in their natural environment such as the home.’ (Purcal, Hill, Meltzer, Boden & Fisher, 2018). Therefore the effectiveness depends on a number of factors including timeliness of support and willingness by families to monitor and record child’s performance consistently.
What are some specific programs and strategies that have been put in place and how is the effectiveness of them measured?
An example of a strategy is the PED-CAT tool. This tool is used to measure improvements or lack thereof in regard to children’s performance following the provision of short-term intervention. Unfortunately professionals working in the sector have suggested that the tool isn’t sensitive enough to measure change over a short period of intervention. More research is required to ascertain whether this is a reliable tool to be used moving forward. Other issues with the PEDI-CAT tool include the fact that some working in the field believe that results can be misinterpreted, questions are offensive for families whose children can’t independently complete them.
As a government funded and multi faceted program, the ECEI has since its inception developed a highly sophisticated and thorough evaluation of the efficacy of its components.
The NDIS has commenced a review of its approach in regards to ECEI, investigating the effectiveness of the program as it stands as well as addressing any shortfalls inherent. A consultation paper called The supporting young children and families early, to reach their full potential highlights potential changes to be made to the program in the years 2021 – 2022. An online survey and focus groups will be used over the three-month consultation period ending 23 February 2021, involving participants, families, carers, providers and the sector. For more, visit:
Alongside this, ECEI also requires ongoing review and monitoring to ensure that practices are achieving the desired outcomes. ECI practitioners become more effective through critical reflection and a solid culture of professional enquiry.
To ensure that they are working from a base of evidence informed by the latest research and practice, ECEI practitioners should maintain knowledge and skills via continuing professional development. In the future, more consistency will be aimed for, access and planning decisions need to be re-imagined to allow for a wider more inclusive scope, and a clearer vision of the ECEI Approach must be developed.
Brooks-Gunn, J., Berlin, L. J., & Fuligni, A. S. (2000) Early childhood interventions – What about the family?
Quinn, D. Ballardin & S.Davies (2012) National Guidelines – Best Practice in Early Childhood Intervention
Benveniste, Parent Wellbeing South Australia (2013) A Practice Guide for Working with Families from Pre-Birth to Eight Years – Engaging Families in the Early Childhood Development Story
Parliament of Australia (2015) Chapter Two: ECEI Approach
Australian National Audit Office (2017) Decision-making Controls for Sustainability – National Disability Scheme Access
Commonwealth of Australia, (2017) Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Provision of services under the NDIS Early Childhood Early Intervention Approach
Social Policy Research Centre, C. Purcal, T. Hill, A. Meltzer, Ni. Boden and K. R. Fisher (2018) Implementation of the NDIS in the early childhood intervention sector in NSW
Vanessa Robinson, (2020) From Birth to 8? The Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) Reset