Support for children with additional needs in early childhood

​If your child has a disability or additional needs, they can get extra support in early childhood, child care and kindergarten.

Our site also has specific information about support in early childhood for hearing loss.

Early intervention

Early intervention means giving your child the support they need as early as possible.

Early Childhood Intervention Services (ECIS)

Early Childhood Intervention Services (ECIS) provide specialist support for children with disability or developmental delay. These services are available from birth until your child starts school. 

The services work with parents and families to build their knowledge and skills and improve the development and wellbeing of their child.

Services include:

  • advice and support
  • special education
  • therapy
  • counselling
  • linking you to other services like child care and kindergarten
  • help with moving to school
  • help with building your parenting skills.

If you have concerns that your child is not reaching milestones usual for a child of their age, speak to your maternal and child health nurse or doctor. Your doctor can refer your child to a paediatrician for further assessment.

Applying for ECIS

Early Childhood Intervention Services are now accessed through the NDIS Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) approach. 

The Early Childhood Early Intervention approach

The NDIS has appointed Early Childhood Partners in each area of Victoria.  Early Childhood Partners are experienced in providing early childhood intervention.  They can:

  • help families understand the NDIS
  • guide families to appropriate supports
  • offer independent advice on supports that best meet your child and family's needs.

If you are already accessing Early Childhood Intervention Services you will be supported to move to the NDIS ECEI approach.

If your child has a disability or developmental delay and you are looking for Early Childhood Intervention Services contact your nearest Early Childhood Partner.

Starting child care or kindergarten

Things to consider when starting child care or kindergarten include:

Support at kindergarten

Preschool field officers

All funded kindergarten programs can use preschool field officers. They help kindergarten teachers improve their skills and confidence to meet the needs of children with additional needs.

Preschool field officers are early childhood teachers with experience in delivering high quality inclusive kindergarten programs.

They work with kindergarten teachers, not one on one with your child. Their role includes:

  • helping the teacher identify your child's learning needs
  • supporting the teacher to provide an inclusive kindergarten program.

For more information about the preschool field officer service speak to your kindergarten teacher.

Inclusion support at kindergarten

Kindergartens can get extra support to help them meet the needs of your child with additional needs. This is called the Kindergarten Inclusion Support Program.

If your child has a disability, developmental delay or complex medical need, the first step is to contact your kindergarten teacher. They’ll set up a program support group which includes your family and kindergarten staff. This is to help everyone understand your child’s needs and plan for their inclusion.

The kindergarten can apply for Kindergarten Inclusion Support if:

  • the program support group decides the kindergarten needs extra help to meet the needs of your child
  • the kindergarten program is funded by the Department of Education and Training.

How Kindergarten Inclusion Support works

The Kindergarten Inclusion Support program may provide kindergartens with:

  • specialist training for teachers to meet the individual needs of the children with disabilities or complex medical needs
  • specialist advice on inclusive learning programs
  • minor building modifications
  • extra assistants to work with the teacher to support all children in the program. They’re not provided for individual children.

Applying for Kindergarten Inclusion Support

Kindergartens apply to the Regional Advisory Group in their area for Kindergarten Inclusion Support. The Regional Advisory Group assess the application and decide the level and type of support to be provided to the kindergarten. They give their decision to the kindergarten within four weeks of getting the application.

The kindergarten then works with the program support group to provide the support.

The resources allocated to the kindergarten will be used to support the kindergarten to respond to the needs of all children in the group.

If you’re unhappy with our decision

Talk to the kindergarten first. If you still have concerns, contact the kindergarten management in writing. Or, contact your closest Department office.

More information about kindergarten support

Your kindergarten teacher should be able to answer any questions. You can also read the Kindergarten Inclusion Support guidelines given to kindergartens.

Tools and training for early childhood professionals

Specialised training is available for professionals who work with young children. This includes training about early childhood intervention, learning support and autism.

Early ABLES

Early ABLES is an online assessment tool that early childhood educators can use to assess the ability of children aged two to five years with additional needs.

It helps them give a more specific learning experience that addresses each child’s individual learning needs.

It gives educators resources to assess your child’s skills in:

  • identity
  • community
  • wellbeing
  • learning
  • communication.