Getting in early
Being able to distinguish quickly between who needs additional support in the early years environment allows the child to progress quicker and makes developmental milestones more achievable to reach compared to if that additional support comes later, or indeed not at all. Recognising problems early on or potential problems and having them addressed can make positive and profound changes throughout a child’s life. Therefore, early years educators have huge potential in steering a child towards a more pleasant and rewarding life, providing we are aware and are engaged in the workplace environment that is. Early intervention then, not only requires awareness and engagement, but knowledge - that is understanding of the stage of development a particular child is in, and if they don’t fit into that stage adequately, then the process of intervention can begin.
Communicating with parents foremost is essential, as most likely they will be able to contribute some valuable information about their child. Working with information from what the parents have provided, we can then begin our analysis of the child in question, making sure that all information is logged sufficiently. Information that is logged can then be passed on whenever required to do so.
Early intervention is crucial
There are a number of important reasons why early intervention is crucial, both can have long term and short term impacts for the child and society. Of course disabilities are diverse in nature, but we know they all contribute extra stress to a child at some point.
Some examples of short term benefits in regard to receiving extra support are:
- Better engagement in activities
- More likely to reach developmental milestones and learning outcomes
- Are more confident and more comfortable in the environment
- Less likely to have accidents
- Parents will be grateful and appreciate the support
- Logs/reports can be used for better planning and collaboration
Some examples of long term benefits in regard to receiving extra support are:
- Prolonged life
- Reduced chances of criminal behaviour
- Better mental health
- Less likely to indulge in drink & drugs
- Less likely to claim substantial amounts of benefits
- Improvement in relationships
- Are better parents themselves
As educators, there are a number of strategies we can use to meet children’s additional needs. Working with the child’s family should be step one, after all, they should already know a lot more than what we do in regard to the needs of the child. When we know the strengths and capabilities of a child, we can then begin to build on those. As all children have some strengths, it shouldn’t be too difficult to do this. Finding these strengths can be done through observation as well as information passed on by parents and fellow staff. Working with external professionals, those in the health services in particular, can also be reached through various lines of communication when necessary also. They can aid the development of certain plans in best supporting the child. Of course, reaching out to the children themselves shouldn’t be underestimated either, children know a lot more than what we are led on, therefore concepts such as the importance of caring and understanding for each other, and other basic ethics should also be taught. In my experience, much of the ethics comes natural to children in most cases anyway.
Some research carried out by the UK government also supports the idea of early intervention in early years, they say:
“Developing attunement, attachment, good communication skills and empathetic behaviour can help babies and children to flourish and reduce problems seen later in life." Indeed, a wealth of research illustrates how early experiences and levels of development can predict later life outcomes. For example:
• A child’s development score at just 22 months can serve as an accurate predictor of educational outcomes at 26 years
• Vocabulary at age 5 has been found to be the best predictor (from a range of measures at age 5 and 10) of whether children who experienced social deprivation in childhood were able to ‘buck the trend’ and escape poverty in later adult life. The Ministry of Justice shows that 70% of young offenders have communication difficulties
• Some 54% of the incidence of depression in women and 58% of suicide attempts by women could be attributed to adverse childhood experiences, according to a study in the US
• An authoritative study of boys assessed by nurses at age 3 found that the boys who were considered to be ‘at risk’ had two and a half times as many criminal convictions at age 21 as the group deemed not to be at risk”
More information on this can be found here.
The early years is an opportunity
As we can see the role of a competent knowledgeable early years educator is becoming more and more apparent. In most cases now, it’s not just one individual supporting a child with needs, rather a collective effort from parents, the staff and external professionals. The more of the ‘needs’ of children that are supported early on, the greater the chance of having positive outcomes for themselves and indeed society in general. This is perhaps then, why early years educators are having a better reputation among other professions - and rightly so. It's never been a better time for children to be part of our Little Cubs sessions!