ECIA Cases for Change Booklet 2018

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Highlighting Examples of Best Practice in Early Childhood Intervention

Best Practice in Action The National Guidelines for Best Practice in Early Childhood Intervention developed by Early Childhood Intervention Australia (ECIA) enable practitioners across Australia to access the recommendations for evidence based best practice on early childhood intervention (ECI) for young children. ECI practitioners can use these guidelines as a framework for excellence in service delivery, as providers transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). ECIA NSW/ACT has developed a series of practical resources titled Cases for Change to showcase how these guiding principles look in practice: •

Celebrating Community in Playgroup

School Holidays in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Cultural Connections

Celebrating Achievements through Inclusion

Making Inclusion Happen in Early Childhood Settings

Building Supports Around Every Child

Collaboration through the Early Connections Alliance Network

Innovative Training Solutions to Workforce Issues

Best Practice Principles At the core of the guidelines are four quality areas, underpinned by the eight key best practices: QUALITY AREA 1: FAMILY • Family-Centred and Strengths-Based Practice • Culturally Responsive Practice QUALITY AREA 2: INCLUSION • Inclusive and Participatory Practice • Engaging the Child in Natural Environments

While the selected practices featured in these case studies are guided by many of the best practices, each case study has been written to emphasise two to three principles. More resources on inclusive practice from ECIA include: • ECIA NSW/ACT website - and Facebook • Inclusion Partners in Practice – Online learning modules

QUALITY AREA 3: TEAMWORK • Collaborative Teamwork Practice • Capacity-Building Practice QUALITY AREA 4: UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLES • Evidence Base, Standards, Accountability and Practice • Outcome Based Approach

The Cases for Change are examples of practices from early childhood sector services and their partners across NSW. As a resource they can be used to: • understand the guidelines in practice • inform your practice • share with colleagues and the community • promote inclusion in your workplace and the community.

• Inclusion Together Blog -

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Celebrating Community in Playgroup OVERVIEW

The “Play 2 Learn” playgroups are run weekly and are free for all families with children 0-6 years old. Most of these playgroups are held in local public schools with the schools being very successful and strong partners. The playgroups are facilitated by educators from Hunter Prelude, school staff and family workers from collaborating family support services. Therapists from Hunter Prelude also attend to consult to staff, children and families in these groups.

QUALITY AREA 1: FAMILY Through the playgroups families have the opportunity to connect with other families, develop their own networks and share ideas and information. QUALITY AREA 2: INCLUSION The playgroups provide a safe environment for families and children to engage and connect with both mainstream and specialist early childhood intervention (ECI) services creating more inclusive communities.

Currently over 500 children and their families from diverse backgrounds are supported, with many families attending several groups each week. The playgroups are proving to be a very good source of support for families and a way of including families who have children with a developmental delay or disability. An exciting example of family engagement and community connectedness happened when the families from the Singleton playgroup approached the other playgroups about coming together to celebrate NAIDOC week. The joint playgroup event “The Playgroup in the Park” was held at a local park during the school holidays. This enabled the whole family including older children to engage in the fun activities celebrating NAIDOC week.

AIMS • To support children and their families from diverse backgrounds to be part of their local community. • To create and increase opportunities for families to build a social network both within and outside of the playgroups. • To develop partnerships between specialist ECI, community and mainstream services to create more inclusive and supportive communities in the Hunter region.

QUALITY AREA 3: TEAMWORK Specialist ECI and mainstream services including local business partners come together to support children and their families within their local community.

“There was a real connection and experience of indigenous culture with a local Aboriginal dance group “Wakagetti” performing on the day at the Playgroup in the Park. They performed a number of dances, many of which included animal movements. They encouraged the children to join in with them. They also explained the stories behind the dances, teaching the families about their culture, language and heritage.” Playgroup Organiser

Hunter Prelude has developed collaborative partnerships with local services and organisations to facilitate supported community playgroups in the Upper and Lower Hunter Valley.

Highlighted Best Practice

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“The dance performance was a way of celebrating and understanding indigenous culture as well as bringing the community together. It also provided fun and entertainment. This was a great experience that highlighted community inclusion and the sharing of a celebration of cultural heritage.” Staff Member

What did we learn?

• Families are linked in with each other and able to broaden their social connections within the local community. • Families can seek guidance from professionals regarding concerns about their child’s development and learn new strategies to support their child in a safe environment. • Children have increased opportunities to learn and develop positive social relationships. • Families have the opportunity to experience and learn about the importance of play in children’s development. • Families connect with the community for other local events like the Multicultural Riverlights Festival, International Day of People with Disability and Child Protection Week. • Families are supported with transitions to the school setting.

The “Playgroup in the Park” was a great success and reinforced our community spirit and connectedness. We observed that social interactions occur more freely in community environments. Visits to local nursing homes are becoming a regular outing which benefits families, children and residents. Other excursions include local art galleries, libraries, parks and Bunnings. It is an important function for the playgroups to continue to link in with the schools, where the playgroups meet, for events such as Book Week, NAIDOC Week and Harmony Day.

ABOUT THE ORGANISATION Hunter Prelude is an early childhood intervention service that provides high quality therapy and education for children with delays in their development or a disability (aged 0-12). They have been operating for over 30 years in the Cessnock, Maitland, Dungog, Singleton, Scone, Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter Local Government Areas.

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OVERVIEW EarlyEd, an early childhood intervention (ECI) service provider, collaborated with the Community and Education team of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney to expand their school holiday program to provide inclusive opportunities for school aged children with disability who wished to join in the same type of school holiday programs as other children. Families in contact with EarlyEd had reported limited availability of school holiday activities suitable for a child with disability. A chance meeting at the 2016 Children’s Week launch between EarlyEd and the Community and Education team for the Royal Botanic Garden led to the identification of a shared interest in designing and delivering school holiday programs that would suit the needs of children with varied abilities and needs for support. Together EarlyEd staff and the Community and Education team adjusted the Garden’s planned holiday program to support the inclusion of all children. The Royal Botanic Garden’s Community and Education team and EarlyEd staff co-hosted the sessions. By walking in the shoes of families who might attend the program, they were able to anticipate some of their challenges, which in turn, helped to inform planning.

AIMS • For children with disabilities to access and successfully participate in mainstream school holiday programs. • For the Royal Botanic Garden to offer inclusive programs that can adapt to the needs of children and families who attend.

Highlighted Best Practice QUALITY AREA 1: FAMILY The whole family including brothers and sisters are welcome to participate in the program. QUALITY AREA 2: INCLUSION All children with a disability can be included successfully in community activities, such as a holiday program, when supported. QUALITY AREA 3: TEAMWORK An ECI service and a mainstream organisation initiated and worked collaboratively to develop and run a holiday program so that all children are successfully included. By sharing skills and knowledge the capacity of both organisations was increased.

“The training session facilitated by EarlyEd for the Community and Education team at Royal Botanic Garden was really valuable. We learnt about the sensory and emotional challenges faced by children with additional needs and some practical strategies for identifying and defusing potentially disruptive behaviours, giving us confidence to enhance the experience for the whole group.” Royal Botanic Garden Staff Member

School Holidays in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

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OUTCOMES • Further holiday programs will be co-hosted on a regular basis where possible and will be collaboratively developed. • The Royal Botanic Garden would like to expand the program to offer tailored inclusive lessons for school groups and to run weekend programs.

What did we learn?

This holiday program was a result of connections and collaboration. Community events such as the Children’s Week Launch provide opportunities to start conversations about the need for inclusion of children in mainstream activities and can create opportunities for collaborative partnerships when you least expect it.

• EarlyEd identified functional adaptions to the holiday program so that children with disability could be included successfully including: reducing the session to one hour; encouraging children to meet beforehand to get used to the space before the program started; and welcoming families, inviting them to stay and join in. • Supports were offered to families to prepare their child for the session including a social story (a story that presents the day’s sequence and activities) which was emailed on booking. This method of introducing the program was seen as something that could be adopted across all the Garden’s programs. • Inclusive strategies have been incorporated into a range of the Garden’s program plans which has been of ongoing benefit to all children who take part in the programs. • The sessions have been run for two holiday periods in 2017 and more are planned for 2018. • Future design of the program will integrate feedback from parents whose children have attended or are interested in attending activities in the school holidays.

Many mainstream services want to deliver inclusive activities. By working together, ECI services can bring their understanding of best practice approaches to mainstream services and together create outcomes that support ongoing meaningful participation.

ABOUT THE ORGANISATIONS EarlyEd is an ECI provider focussed on supporting children and their families when they are concerned about their child’s development and to provide the intervention and support they require as early as possible in life. Website: Facebook: The Community and Education team from The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney have led the way in connecting people with plants for over 40 years. Their program encompasses early childhood activities to adult workshops, outreach programs and holiday fun. Website: This is a youtube video about school holidays at the garden

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Cultural Connections

Highlighted Best Practice


QUALITY AREA 1: FAMILY When engaging CALD children with disabilities and their families, services connect in ways that respect cultural diversity and ensure information, programs and support are culturally and linguistically appropriate.

Ethnic Community Services Co-operative (ECSC) promote the importance of building strong cultural connections and partnerships with families. One such example is the Cultural Treasure Chest Playgroup - a multicultural, bilingual playgroup which Ngoc and her son Mekong attend and have benefited from participating. This playgroup is facilitated by a bilingual speech pathologist and a bicultural support worker. Mekong had been observed as showing undiagnosed language developmental delay. As Vietnamese was his main language at home, his mum Ngoc was delighted to participate in a playgroup that promoted home language and where the facilitators spoke Vietnamese and English.

AIMS • To provide children and families with bilingual activities, resources and experiences which will promote positive bilingual language and literacy development in the home and community. • To address family concerns around language, literacy, speech and bi/multilingualism.

QUALITY AREA 2: INCLUSION Services and programs that are culturally responsive support the social and community inclusion of the child and family. Cultural connections formed between services and families create strong multicultural inclusion partners in practice.

“Ngoc told us she was so happy to come to this Playgroup. After two years of Mekong not speaking, she could see progress. What made her experience so positive was having a Vietnamese Bicultural Support Worker who made sure that she understood everything and participated in the language activities with Mekong. We observed Ngoc being consulted, encouraged and supported. Working with Ngoc, we listened to what she wanted for her son who in turn was happy, felt safe, understood, and his skills were developing and improving over time.” Staff Member

Children with a disability from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds and their families are not only faced with challenges related to their disability. They face additional challenges in terms of access, full participation and inclusion due to issues or barriers around language and culture.

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“I am so grateful to receive bilingual early intervention services that make Mekong and I feel welcome. It makes me happy to have someone to talk to in my language, because English is difficult for me. When I don’t understand, I don’t interact.” Ngoc, parent

What did we learn?

• The Cultural Treasure Chest Playgroup culturally connected with Ngoc and Mekong to meet their individual needs, particularly those around culture and language. • Working in partnership with Ngoc showed her that her culture, her priorities and input were respected and valued, giving her confidence in her family choices for her son. • The Playgroup helped Ngoc develop a treasure chest of bilingual activities and resources that she was able to extend to the home environment to help develop Mekong’s language. • Ngoc became actively involved in working with the playgroup team in planning Mekong’s intervention and building their networks and resources. • Making a cultural connection at the Playgroup with Mekong and Ngoc also helped to build an information and referral bridge to other relevant early intervention services.

It is important to invest in connecting culturally with families and giving them a cultural voice. This is particularly critical when considering the complexities and understanding around disability in various cultures. Every service supporting CALD children with a disability and their families should be a unique “Cultural Treasure Chest” for them. Authentic inclusion happens for CALD children and their families when they are given opportunities to express their cultural voice.

ABOUT THE ORGANISATION Ethnic Community Services Co-operative through its Multicultural Children’s, Disability and Aged Care Programs are one of the leading agencies in NSW that advocate for the needs of CALD children with disabilities, their families and carers, so that they receive equitable, inclusive and culturally appropriate services. Website: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram:

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C ases for C hange Celebrating Achievements through Inclusion Antonia is a very determined five year old girl who attends Plumtree preschool two days a week and another centre on the other days. The genetic condition she was born with has impacted on the achievement of her developmental milestones, however, this has never stopped her from persevering and trying. Antonia’s family enrolled her at Plumtree because of its inclusive philosophy where they were happy for her to be supported to develop at her own pace. The educators at Plumtree noticed that she was pulling herself up using the table and decided to use this as a way to build on her gross motor skills. They talked with the physiotherapist who regularly supports Antonia to come up with some strategies. Antonia has a strong interest in music and the educators would intentionally place a musical instrument on the table to get her interest, chairs were placed close to the table to support her navigating the space. Her participation was also encouraged by the other children joining in and playing the instruments. It took Antonia less than two weeks to pull herself up. The other children saw the educators supporting her and they became engaged in the process, celebrating Antonia’s every achievement. Because of Antonia’s restricted vision, she finds the brighter, front room with less furniture easier to navigate. One day Antonia came out of the bathroom and just walked around her favourite room. Michael, another child was playing in the room. One of the staff said “Michael, do you know that Antonia is walking?” He turned quickly around to see and said “Wow that is so cool! Go Antonia!” Michael stood up and jumped up and down for joy.

AIMS • For Antonia to be supported, challenged and have a real sense of belonging in her preschool environment

Highlighted Best Practice QUALITY AREA 2: INCLUSION Inclusion is about belonging to and participating in a diverse society. An inclusive environment such as Plumtree Preschool is holistic and recognises the unique contributions each child and their family make to the richness of a diverse community. Inclusion lays the foundation for each child’s participation within a diverse community.

“I felt proud and grateful that Michael has learnt empathy. It was amazing because it was so natural, he turned around and just reacted naturally. The whole reason we started here [at Plumtree] was that, when Michael and his sister get to the real world, they believe everyone belongs. It is important that they have that natural instinct that everybody is included.” Eunhai (Michael’s mother)


• For Antonia to be supported in her social skills development and communication in an inclusive environment where she could work at her own pace.

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“What I love most about our preschool being inclusive is the joy that the other children have when they see a child’s achievement and share in their joy.” Hannah, the Director at Plumtree Preschool

• All the children were happy to see Antonia walking, as they have witnessed and supported the process of building the skills and her determination to walk. Antonia was beaming with pride, she was smiling with confidence and felt strong and empowered. Her smile got bigger and bigger every time someone saw her. • The service has created a sense of security and connection between families, children and staff. • The children feel included in the learning process of others and share in their achievements. • The educators felt that Michael’s reaction, the natural celebration of his peer’s achievement, validated their approach observing that the moment was viewed as “A person is learning rather than that person is different.”

What did we learn? Creating a sense of belonging for all children can assist individual milestones being reached. Plumtree preschool staff will continue to support Antonia’s development by following her interests in music, singing and nursery rhymes. They have started building on her communication skills and she is already making great progress, feeling empowered and confident.

ABOUT THE ORGANISATION Plumtree Preschool is a community preschool that has a focus on inclusion. One third of children who attend have a disability. The preschool has a high staff ratio ensuring that all children’s individual needs are supported while their skills, love of learning and curiosity are extended in the play based program. Their vision is a society where all children and their families, are supported to have a full life in the community.

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C ases for C hange Making Inclusion Happen in Early Childhood Settings

Highlighted Best Practice

OVERVIEW At Goodstart Wagga Wagga Station Place Childcare Centre, children are at the heart of everything that happens and the educators are committed to working with families to provide the ideal early learning environment for every child. Alex is a four year old boy who began attending the centre at the beginning of the year. His mother and father reported that, at eight months of age, Alex stopped eating solids and started to lose weight. This has resulted in Alex using a PEG-feeding tube since that time. It appears that his difficulties with eating solids are related to sensory issues.

QUALITY AREA 2: INCLUSION Children learn from each other and have a strong need to connect with each other. Participating fully and meaningfully in settings with his peers gives Alex increased opportunities to improve his eating skills, learn social skills and develop friendships.

When Alex first came to the child care centre he was hesitant and didn’t like the educators touching him. As for the staff, they needed to gain confidence with regular PEG Feeding. A key educator worked with Alex and his family to build Alex’s trust and assist the team to learn his individual cues. Initially Alex was fed in the privacy of the team room, which was thought to be more comfortable for Alex and for the educators who were learning PEG feeding. When Alex was asked where he would like to have his milk however, he clearly said that he wanted to be with the other children at the dining table. With the help of Alex’s family, who gave some strategies on how to successfully include Alex and the key educator, everyone worked together to get Alex into the dining room with the other children.

AIMS • For Alex to feel confident and happy in the child care environment. • For Alex to have the opportunity to participate and engage with his peers in the everyday routines of the child care centre, particularly the eating programme, with the long term goal for Alex of eating solid food.

QUALITY AREA 3: TEAMWORK Capacity-building practice occurred with the staff of Goodstart Wagga Wagga working with family and external specialist staff to confidently acquire the skills to use PEG feeding in the open dining room setting.

The centre took a number of steps to support the educators and children to include Alex at mealtimes. An early childhood nurse trained the educators on how to do PEG feeding, so that they could do this confidently in a social environment. Educators could discuss any issues they were having with feeding at team meetings. To prepare the children for having Alex at the dining table, the educators got some pictures of what PEG feeding is, and some of Alex’s tubes and bottles to show the children the process. This elicited lots of conversation and questions between the children and educators.

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OUTCOMES When Alex first came to sit at the dining room table with the other children they were very excited. “Alex is coming to the dining room table!” Now they all sit around with their lunch talking and engaging with Alex while the educator feeds him.

• Alex now feels secure and happy in the child care environment interacting positively with the educators and other children. • Alex is fed his milk at the dining room table with the other children. • Alex has made great progress as he is now starting to pick up food from the shared fruit platters and to lick and taste it. • Developmentally, Alex is saying more words and be part of the group time where he is demonstrating good listening skills.

Next Steps Alex is with Goodstart child care for another 12 months before he starts school. The goal is for Alex to continue to naturally be a part of the eating routines with his peers and begin to eat solid food. Alex’s family long term is for him to gain weight and then have the PEG removed. This would be a real achievement that can be celebrated and enjoyed by Alex, his family, the children and everyone at Goodstart.


Goodstart are Australia’s largest early learning provider and a not–for–profit social enterprise whose primary goal is to improve the lives of Australia’s children and their families. Goodstart Wagga Wagga Station Place Childcare Centre is one of their child care centres. Goodstartwaggawaggastation/

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Building Supports Around Every Child

Highlighted Best Practice


Previously, families accessing therapy from Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) services were limited to working with the therapists on staff. This created longer wait times and reduced the choice families had in deciding which therapist they wanted to work with their child, this included therapists from other services already working with the child and family. Also, the lack of available workforce meant difficulty in accessing adequate therapies for children and their families.

QUALITY AREA 1: FAMILY Shaping Outcomes respects the families we work with and gives them choice and control regarding their Key Worker Specialist and other members in the team around their child.

Industry change with the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) resulted in an opportunity to create organisational change. It was decided to move to a key worker specialist-based organisational model, placing a high priority on relationships in the community to service the health and therapy needs of children and their families. To fulfil this model the service became highly active in participating and collaborating with the 6 ECI services in the local region, 35 schools, 26 early childhood services, the community health team, over 35 therapists, multiple forums and interagency networks. This model is providing families with unprecedented flexibility, choice and control over the support and service they receive.

AIM • To develop an organisational model that employs Key Worker Specialists as the core staff, supported by a panel of transdisciplinary therapists from multiple disciplines in the community, giving our families choice and control for the team around their child.

QUALITY AREA 3: TEAMWORK A Key Worker Specialist from the service is the main contact working with the family and coordinating the whole team. They work collaboratively and in partnership with therapists in the local community, to form a team around the child and their family.

“Shaping Outcomes has changed my son’s and my family’s life. If we are having a bad day - whether it’s behaviour challenges, equipment issues, social problems - Shaping Outcomes is my first call. Our Key Worker Specialist has been such a blessing to us, not only is she a wealth of information and knowledge, but she truly ‘gets it’ and is like family.” Parent

Shaping Outcomes adopted a highly innovative organisational model by employing Key Worker Specialists, supported by a panel of therapists from the local community, to support children and families.

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“Key Worker Specialists are strong advocates for clients within their communities. An example included assisting a child to play for a local soccer team with his school friends.” Excerpt from HDAA Assessment

What did we learn?

• Families are provided with choice and control over who is in their child’s team, including their Key Worker Specialist. • Families are enabled to best match their child and family with a therapist’s and Key Worker Specialist’s strengths, personality and location. • Tools like Individual Education Plans/Individual Family Service Plans are used in conjunction with an online customer management system, which was developed in house and fit for purpose, to efficiently manage the child’s information as well as plans and notes from all members of the child’s team. • Improved positive outcomes for the children and families accessing the service. • Working relationships have been established with over 35 therapists from multiple disciplines such as psychology, speech pathology, occupational therapy, social work and physiotherapy.

The model has been operational for five years and the organisation has grown in capacity since its introduction from six Key Worker Specialists to nine. The panel of therapists has grown from 15 to over 35. One mum recently commented that she felt supported in deciding who should be involved in the planning and decision making with her consent always asked for first. She always had the final say and felt respected by staff. This empowered her to develop, review, assess and adjust her child’s plan and she was actively encouraged to do so regularly.

ABOUT THE ORGANISATION Shaping Outcomes delivers specialised supports that build on the strengths and abilities of children with disabilities or delays, and their families. To create resilience and help children and the community surrounding them feel and act empowered, we work on extending the capacity for children, families and the community.

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Early Connections Alliance Network OVERVIEW Five community based Early Childhood Intervention Programs (ECIPs) across the Mid North Coast formed an Early Connections Alliance Network to support their communities in preparing and transitioning to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). In preparation for the lead up to the NDIS it was identified that forming an Early Connections Alliance Network across all five organisations would help support each individual Program to enter the new competitive landscape of NDIS.

Highlighted Best Practice QUALITY AREA 2: INCLUSION The Accept Difference campaign promoted and supported the inclusion of children within their local community as a core component of the new Alliance. QUALITY AREA 3: TEAM WORK Families are supported to be part of the team around their child and are an essential part of the sharing of knowledge about the skills and abilities of their child. Staff are engaged in mentoring of team members within the Alliance.

As well as aiming to create a stronger presence within the NDIS market place, all five organisations wanted to maintain a strong connection and presence within their local communities. The five ECIPs are located across Manning, Great Lakes, Port Macquarie, Hastings, Kempsey, Nambucca Valley and Coffs Coast with each program having supported their local communities for up to 35 years. The ECIPs have a long history of working together on projects and sharing resources.

AIMS • For the Early Connections Alliance Network to stand out as a preferred organisational model for the early childhood intervention (ECI) sector in the mid-north coast of NSW and an employer of choice in the mid-north coast of NSW within the NDIS market place, and within the Early Childhood Intervention Sector.

QUALITY AREA 4: UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLES Early Connections Alliance Network is committed to providing evidence-based supports through the employment of highly qualified, experienced practitioners and ensuring continuous reflection on services and support.

An Early Connections Alliance project that was highly successful was the Accept Difference campaign which helped raise Early Connections profile locally as well as online internationally. The project highlighted the important work Early Connections do in supporting and assisting the inclusion of children within their local communities.

• To develop the brand of Early Connections Alliance Network as a Centre of excellence for Early Childhood Intervention in the mid-north coast of NSW.

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“The Accept Difference campaign, by supporting inclusive practices, helps us develop a community vision that is compassionate and believes in equality for people and families living with disability.” Caryn Maher, Program Manager Early Connections, Coffs Coast

Next Steps The Alliance will move to the next stage of organisational development by combining workplace procedures and systems including the introduction of a single intake process across five sites. They will keep families informed, supported and wellresourced via the creation of a new NDIS / ECI resource.

• A combined marketing team with representatives from each site has been formed to assist in a consistent communication and marketing approach across all five sites with a new name, brand and logos developed. The Alliance has combined all five separate Facebook pages into one. • The Alliance have combined purchasing / cost sharing marketing material. • The Alliance now has combined Professional Development and Training and a meeting calendar for managers and key workers for all five sites to discuss best practice and how we support families and children. • To assist with consistency of approach and in the recruitment of staff they are sharing the employment of staff across sites, for example employment of a speech pathologist across three sites. • The Accept Difference Project, a multi-media social awareness campaign based on a true story, was recognised by winning an excellence award at the ECIA NSW/ACT awards in 2017.

To ensure sustainability the Alliance will attract and support graduates to work on the NSW North Coast with strategies including creating a more mobile, flexible and efficient workforce via the use of cellular and speech to text technology, ongoing professional development and mentoring.


Early Connections has been launched as the new brand name for five existing ECIPs on the MidNorth Coast, from Taree to Coffs Harbour. The five Programs have been operating independently for over 25 years but have now come together to form a new Alliance Network. All of these services are incorporated not-for profit, community based organisations and will remain independently operated by their own Management Committees. Websites: Facebook:

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Innovative Training Solutions to Workforce Issues Firstchance Inc. with Response Employment and Training Pty Ltd partnered to provide parents and carers with a formal qualification and employment pathway that recognised and validated the learning and skills families have developed whilst working within a collaborative transdisciplinary team to provide supports to their child.

QUALITY AREA 1: FAMILY We have always known our parent/carers were the most important teacher for their child and the valuable knowledge and skills they bring to a collaborative transdisciplinary team are essential. The qualification provides great synergy with the work we do at Firstchance.

The partnership was formed to deliver an innovative training/employment solution which recognised that local families and carers are an untapped and hidden workforce which can provide a solution to the sector’s workforce shortage concerns by providing early childhood intervention supports. The Certificate III Individual Support is a formal recognition of the valuable knowledge and skills parents and carers of a child with a disability acquire when working in a collaborative team model. NSW State Training Services provided the funding to Response to develop and run the program.

QUALITY AREA 3: TEAMWORK The early childhood intervention provided by Firstchance is based on current research and innovative approaches that support children to learn through play, experiences and interactions in their environment. Our team of therapists and educators work with families to not only support the child, but to build their capacity to continue to provide those supports when we are not around.

The course was delivered over a 6 month period using a series of workshops, scenarios, and self-paced learning that took place one day per week during school hours.

AIMS • To provide families with a nationally accredited Certificate III Individual Support qualification which recognises their existing knowledge and skills. • For families and carers to provide engaging, professional and values-based support services to people with a disability and help address the workforce shortage in the disability sector.

“It’s no secret that the key issue facing local disability service providers in regional areas is the ability to attract and recruit staff and there is concern that the ongoing workforce shortages are restricting the sector’s ability to meet the increasing demands for quality services. An innovative solution was recognised in our local families and carers, an untapped and hidden workforce recognising their unique knowledge, skills and life experience.” Firstchance Staff Member.


Highlighted Best Practice

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“It was a great experience to complete this certificate with other families. I felt so supported and valued for my experience with my children. I have already gone on to paid employment in the sector as a direct result from this training.”

• This short, sharp and quality course met the needs of participants, taking into consideration the extensive pre-existing skillset of parents and carers and the time constraints placed on busy families. • The course provided parents and carers with formal recognition of the learning and skills they have developed and at the same time partnering with Firstchance therapists and educators to provide support to their child. • The formal recognition process resulted in the majority of participants receiving recognition of prior learning (RPL) for several units within the qualification.

• There was a 100% completion rate and participants linked with an employer at the end of the program.

Next Steps Working with community partners and applying effective collaboration to the practical and operational aspects of the early childhood intervention service, Firstchance will continue to use their newly trained workforce to contribute to their ongoing viability.

• The disability sector has been provided with an additional workforce of a previously untapped resource of knowledgeable and skilled individuals.

Firstchance want to continue to acknowledge the skills, knowledge and capacity of the parents and carers they support. By working with Response to build on the success of Certificate III in Individual Support course, they will be offering parents and carers a new opportunity to enrol in a nationally recognised Certificate IV Allied Health Assistant course.

ABOUT THE ORGANISATION Firstchance Inc. is an early childhood intervention services based in the Hunter Region providing transdisciplinary early intervention and individual therapy supports for children aged 0-12 years with a disability or developmental delay and their families. Firstchance have been providing services for families in the Lake Macquarie, Newcastle and Port Stephens region for over 40 years.

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