Too often children with learning disabilities and their families are unable to access the early years support and services they need. Cerebra in collaboration with The Challenging Behaviour Foundation, Council for Disabled Children, University of Warwick and Mencap have today published a new report “Investing in early intervention”.
Many families of disabled children struggle to get the right early support in the right place at the right time – and this can mean that children’s and families’ difficulties get worse, unnecessarily. This report highlights how and why we should intervene early with targeted support for children with learning disabilities and their families.
Early intervention is about providing effective early support to children and young people who are at risk of poor outcomes. Supporting and working with the family is key for effective early intervention. Early intervention can take different forms, from helping a child to learn a key developmental skill (like early communication), directly helping to improve the well-being of the child’s family, to programmes in early years education settings. Effective early intervention can make a real difference in both preventing problems occurring and tackling problems when they do start to emerge.
Dame Christine Lenehan, Director of the Council for Disabled Children, said;
“This report provides insights and examples that show the difference it can make and how we can change for the better. We need to use this report well to bring about the changes that we need, nationally and locally, to ensure children and young people secure better outcomes, realise their ambitions and live full lives with their family and in their community. There is no more important indicator of our national wellbeing and of our fundamental humanity.”
The importance of early intervention is recognised in a range of policy and guidance around support and services for children and young people with learning disabilities. Examples from practice also demonstrate how early intervention support can be delivered successfully to children with learning disabilities and their families in the UK to support prevention and a joined-up approach. Yet, too often it is not happening.
Parent NA, who works as part of Mencap’s family engagement programme in Newham, added;
“As a parent of a child with additional needs who never had any support or access to any services before and after my child was diagnosed, I firmly believe that a focus on supporting families early on is the best way forward.
“The training for families of children with a learning disability that I attended provided knowledge about how to support my child’s communication. It enabled peer support which improved my confidence and self-esteem to best support my family.
“I am so passionate about other families benefiting too that I am now involved in a project to support other families. We help families navigate & access relevant and meaningful services that meet the needs of their child and family. I want all families of children with a learning disability to get the support I’ve had and to get it much earlier.”
The economic case for early intervention and the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on children with learning disabilities and their access to early intervention are also discussed in the report.
Viv Cooper, CEO of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said;
“The pandemic has exacerbated the issues for children with learning disabilities and their families and therefore it is even more important to ensure we urgently invest wisely and act strategically. We have an opportunity to show that children with a learning disability are valued, and to focus on early intervention as a long-term holistic approach that is transformational. It is an opportunity we must take.”
The report is available to download here