Help families find the right early intervention provider

Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Friday, 10 January, 2020



Help families find the right early intervention provider

If you have a young patient recently diagnosed with special needs, chances are their family will be looking for providers who can give their child the right supports and expertise.

But with nearly 1500 early childhood intervention (ECI) providers available in NSW and ACT alone, finding the right support can be a tricky process.

To help your patients determine what is most important to them, Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) has created an eGuide on how to find the right early intervention therapy provider. The content is based on feedback from parents, and learnings from experienced disability specialist therapists, clinicians and researchers.

Why early intervention is critical

The first five years of life are crucial for neurological development. During this time, the brain is developing at rapid speed, making it the ideal time to harness neuroplasticity.

To maximise the brain’s ability to adapt or rewire itself, research shows that getting access to intervention as early as possible will give a child the best chance of learning, regardless of the condition or diagnosis.

How CPA’s eGuide can help

In a recent research study conducted by CPA, parents expressed that they found it hard to see where providers differ in their expertise and experience.

CPA’s Early Childhood Intervention eGuide aims to cut through the noise during this overwhelming time for parents.

With practical information, including questions to ask a provider and checklists to compare and shortlist, the guide is a great tool to help parents feel empowered during the decision making process and give them confidence in their final choice.

Below are some of the questions that the eGuide encourages parents to ask potential providers:

What experience and success has the provider had working with babies and children?

As the first five years of a child’s life are a time of rapid brain development, finding a provider that has a deep understanding of optimising a child’s neuroplasticity and how to make the most of a child’s early years is key.

Working with younger clients also requires a different approach to working with adults, so it’s worth finding someone who understands the need for thinking differently when it comes to babies and young children, as well as a clinician who can make the experience fun so the child enjoys learning.

Is the provider a generalist or a specialist?

If a child has more complex needs like learning how to feed or swallow, independent mobility, or working with communication devices, a specialist disability provider will likely have the expertise to identify more targeted therapy that can result in better and faster outcomes.

While a generalist therapy provider can support common conditions affecting the general population, it’s rare they will also have a deep understanding and experience of complex disabilities diagnosed at birth or in early childhood.

Is the provider using evidence-based interventions?

Not all interventions are created equal.

Some interventions predict certain outcomes, but lack real evidence. Others are backed by robust clinical research, which is tried, tested, and proven to produce positive outcomes.

Before selecting a provider, parents should ask about the different interventions they offer, and whether there is clinical research to support the promised outcomes.

Does the provider offer access to the latest equipment and technologies?

The rapidly accelerating rate of technological innovation has tremendous potential to improve the lives of those living with a disability. Think gamified rehabilitation, virtual reality, 3D printed orthotics, or state-of-the-art Teleservice.

For many, accessing these latest innovations isn’t always easy, so it’s worth parents considering the size of a provider, and whether they have the interest or capability to offer them access to new interventions that will meet the longer term needs of their child and family.

How can the eGuide help you have better conversations with your patients?

As a medical professional, it’s likely that you will need to view patient reports and assessments produced by their wider care team from time to time.

One of the questions that the guide encourages parents to ask is how this information is presented.

A good report will be provided in a sharable format and be easy to understand. It will also use clear and simple language to identify goals set, progress made and future recommendations.

Parents should make sure they have access to all reports and assessments for their child, and ask whether reports are produced digitally or by hand — a comprehensive report won’t be much help if it’s illegible!

A free copy of this guide is available for download at cerebralpalsy.org.au/eci.

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