Early Childhood Intervention Services and Supports

Elements of the Helping Children with Autism (HCWA) and Better Start for Children with Disability (Better Start) programs have now ceased. Individualised support for children with disability or developmental delay may be available through the NDIS and you are encouraged to contact the NDIS, your Early Childhood partner or the NDIS National Call Centre on 1800 800 110.

Elements of these programs that are continuing include:

The Department of Social Services is establishing a new National Early Childhood Program to support children with disability or developmental concerns. Further information is below. 

The Department of Social Services is also leading the Early Childhood Targeted Action Plan (EC TAP) to support the new Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021-31 (the Strategy).

Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres (ASELCCs)

Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres (ASELCCs) were established to provide early learning, programs and specific support for children aged zero to six years with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in a long day care setting.

ASELCCs were established in:

  • South Western Sydney
  • Brisbane
  • Adelaide
  • North West Tasmania
  • Melbourne
  • Perth

More information about the ASELCCs

Early Days Workshops

Early Days Workshops provide flexible and tailored support for parents and carers of children with autism or disability including those from diverse cultural and Indigenous backgrounds, and those living in rural and remote areas. The workshops help parents and carers to:

  • better support their children
  • learn new coping skills
  • more effectively manage the pressures they face in raising their children
  • create links within their local community.

For more information about autism-specific Early Days Workshops, please go to Early Days or contact the Autism Association in your state or territory.

For more information about disability-specific Early Days Workshops, please go to the Ability First Australia - First Steps Workshops (link is external) website.

PlayConnect Playgroups

The PlayConnect Playgroups target children under the age of seven with autism or autism-like symptoms. They usually meet weekly for two hours during school terms. During playgroup sessions, parents, carers and children participate in a variety of play activities and experiences specifically suited to the needs of children with autism.

For more information please go to the PlayConnect Playgroups website.

Positive Partnerships

The Australian Government Department of Education offers the Positive Partnerships initiative for school-aged children with autism.

Positive Partnerships hold workshops and information sessions for parents and carers of school-age students with autism. These workshops and information sessionscan help parents and carers to work with their child’s teachers, school leaders and other staff.

Positive Partnerships also supports professional development for teachers, school leaders and other school staff to build their understanding, skills and expertise in working with children with autism.

The Positive Partnerships website has a range of resources including fact sheets, online learning modules and information on upcoming workshops.

HCWA and Better Start Medicare Items

Children under the age of thirteen can access HCWA and Better Start Medicare items available for assessment, diagnosis and the creation of a treatment and management plan. Once a treatment and management plan is in place, items are available for sessions with a range of allied health professionals including psychologists, speech pathologists, and occupational therapists.

The services include:

  • Up to four diagnostic / assessment services to assist the referring practitioner with diagnosis or to contribute to a child’s treatment and management plan (for a child under thirteen years of age).
  • Up to twenty treatment sessions (for a child under fifteen years of age, providing they have a treatment and management plan in place by thirteen).

You do not need to have been registered with HCWA or Better Start to use these Medicare items.

More information, including specific Medicare item number can be found via the links below:

National Early Childhood Program for Children with Disability and Developmental Concerns (the NECP)

The NECP is intended to support young children (aged 0-8 years) with disability or developmental concerns and their parents and carers.

On 23 August 2021, the Department of Social Services commissioned Whereto Research Based Consulting (Whereto) to conduct a co-design process with stakeholders to inform the program design of the NECP. Whereto engaged with around 600 stakeholders, including parents and carers of young children with disability or developmental concerns, and sector stakeholders including, peak bodies and service providers.

A summary report of this co-design process can be accessed in the link below, along with an Easy Read version:

Whereto co-design summary report

The NECP is currently under development and associated grant opportunities for service provision will be available on the GrantConnect and Community Grants Hub websites.

Raising Children Network 

The Raising Children Network website provides autism and disability-specific online information, resources and interactive functions to support parents, carers and professionals. The website informs families and carers about services available for their children. It also provides information that helps families and carers to cope with pressures they face in raising their children and helps to maximise the day-to-day functioning of the family.

Disability-specific information and resources available at: Raising Children with Disability | Raising Children Network (link is external)

Early Childhood Targeted Action Plan (EC TAP)

Targeted Action Plans (TAPs) were developed in collaboration with Commonwealth, state and territory governments to support Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021-2031.

The Department of Social Services is leading the implementation of the Early Childhood Targeted Action Plan (EC TAP), which focuses on children from infancy to school age with disability or developmental concerns, their families and carers. This TAP sets out key actions to strengthen early identification, information, supports and pathways, as well as collaboration between programs and services.

Each TAP has an annual reporting requirement, including what actions have occurred, what successes there have been, and overall status. These reports are made after each financial year and will be published alongside the Strategy’s Outcomes Framework which measures, tracks and reports on outcomes for people with disability.

More information on Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021-2031 can be found on the Disability Gateway.

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