COMPLETED RESEARCH

Inclusion

Inclusion of young children with disabilities in mainstream early childhood services (2008)

Inclusion in Early Childhood Services: Ongoing Challenges (2002)

Young Children with Disabilities in NSW Children's Services (1999)


Inclusion of young children with disabilities in mainstream early childhood services (2008)

Grace, R., Llewellyn, G., Wedgwood, N., Fenech, M., & McConnell, D. (2008). Far from ideal: Everyday experiences of parents and teachers negotiating an inclusive early childhood experience in the Australian context. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education. 28(1), 18-30.

Project team

University of Sydney and the Office of Childcare, NSW Department of Community Services

Prof Gwynnyth Llewellyn
Dr Nikki Wedgwood
Dr Virginia Schmied (NSW Department of Community Services)

Background

This project was funded by the ARC Linkage scheme, to investigate the barriers to, and factors facilitating effective inclusion of young children with disabilities in mainstream early childhood services in the Australian funding, policy and practice context.

Aim

The project aimed to identify the barriers to and factors facilitating inclusion of young disabled children in three mainstream early childhood service settings, preschool, long day care and occasional care centre.

Method

In-depth narrative interviews with 39 mothers of children with disabilities and 27 staff members form the early childhood services which these children attended.

Findings and implications

Data from the interviews highlighted limitations of current government policy and provisions in Australian to facilitating the inclusion of children with disabilities into mainstream children’s services. The small number of successful inclusions shown in this study appears to be in spite of current policy and may be attributed more to staff personnel.

Related publications

Llewellyn G, Thompson K & Fante M (2003). Inclusion in early childhood services: Ongoing challenges. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 27 (3), 18-23.

Llewellyn G, Thompson K & Fante M (2000). Young children with disabilities in NSW Children's Services (pp. 95-122). In NSW Department of Community Services, Insights into Research: Four studies on early childhood issues and children's services. Available from, Office of Childcare, NSW Department of Community Services.


Inclusion in Early Childhood Services: Ongoing Challenges (2002)

Llewellyn, G., Thompson, K., & Fante, M. (2002). Inclusion in early childhood services: Ongoing challenges. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 27(3), 18 - 23.

Background

Federal policy in Australia promotes the availability of flexible and high quality child care for young children of working parents and particularly for children with additional needs. Yet with inclusion not being compulsory, there are numerous opportunities for it to become derailed as attempts are made to implement policy into practice.

With this as background, the Office of Child Care, NSW Department of Community Services (DoCS), commissioned a research project to generate a picture of current inclusion practices in NSW early childhood services. Overall, the project reported a strong commitment from early childhood services to including children with disabilities, tempered by several ongoing challenges to the inclusion process. This paper addresses these challenges.

The focus of occupational therapy services has shifted from a traditional child-centred approach - where therapy focuses on bringing about changes in the child as distinct from the family - to a more family centred one. Here it is assumed that supporting families in their caregiving role promotes the functional development of the child.

Adopting such a model of care requires specific competencies, including skills related to developing an understanding of individual family situations and communicating this understanding to parents. Further, extensive guidelines exist for occupational therapy practice with families. These pertain to supporting parents practically and emotionally in their role as caregivers of a child with a disability. Supportive services are characterized by a collaborative relationship between therapists and parents who, as equal partners, identify the family's needs and resources and work together in developing a service structure and home program routine that fits into daily family life.

Although the occupational therapy and early intervention literature expouses a family-centred approach to intervention, families have rarely been asked about their experiences of these services. Whether the experience of parents caring for a child with a disability and high support needs matches this theoretical approach requires exploration.

Method

Surveys were sent to 1195 children's services from six DoCS' areas and two local government areas. These surveys requested information about the enrolment of children with disabilities in a nominated week in August 1999, the sources of funding accessed to support enrolment, the types of support provided, the impact of funding on enrolment and barriers to working with children with disabilities. 353 completed surveys were returned (32.5%), and the results analysed using SSPSS or content or numerical analysis.

Small group interviews and focus groups were also held with children's services personnel. These focused on barriers to enrolment of children with disabilities, existing attitudes around the enrolment of children with disabilities, and factors that contribute to the successful inclusion of children with disabilities in children's services. Similar focus groups were also held with personnel from government departments and peak organizations.

Results

229 services enrolled a total of 946 children with disabilities in the named week. Most of these services (88.2%) were preschools and more than two-thirds of the children came from the Sydney metropolitan area.

The findings can be summarised in the following thematic sections:

  1. Securing Funding
    Key issues raised here were:
  2. * Having to negotiate the multiple sources of government funding, each of which has their own eligibility and accountability criteria. Further, application processes were found to be poorly understood, complex, and resource-intensive.
    * Having to obtain a disability diagnosis to secure funding. Concerns raised here included staff becoming involved in difficult and intensive negotiations with parents and professionals so as to receive the necessary documentation and placing a potentially segregating label on a child so early in his or her development.
    * Dealing with funding inequities and uncertainties.
  3. Enrolling Children with Disabilities
    This practice was made difficult by the following identified constraints:
  4. * Obtaining and keeping competent and confident staff.
    * Duty of care and fear of litigation concerns owing to a lack of knowledge, skills or resources to adequately meet the needs of children with disabilities.
    * Children with a disability being regarded as adding an unwelcome and additional responsibility to already busy services.
    * The ongoing separation of specialist and mainstream services which works against inclusion by fostering competitive rather than collaborative working relationships.
  5. Inclusion in Practice
    Early childhood service workers identified many challenges they faced in the process of putting inclusion policy into practice:
  6. * Inadequate staff:child ratios.
    * Lack of access to specialist advice.
    * Untrained aides, rather than special aides, being more likely to provide support to the overall centre programs in addition to assisting children with a disability.
    * Co-ordinating the many services involved, such as family support, vacation care and early intervention, thereby having less 'floor time' with the children.

Discussion

The picture of mainstream early childhood services generated by this study suggests that the experience of children with disabilities and their families remains primarily one of 'special treatment'. This experience is exacerbated by the perception in the sector that including children with disabilities can proceed only if funds are made available to support the child and/or the service.

An equally important component of inclusion practices are the attitudes, beliefs, and knowledge of service personnel, and the willingness of both early childhood workers and specialist early intervention staff to work together in identifying and preparing for the full range of potentially eligible children.

For policy makers, planners and service personnel, two broad recommendations are proposed:

1. That a collaborative policy, planning and funding framework be developed for the inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood services in NSW; and,
2. That training objectives which jointly address the learning needs of mainstream early childhood services personnel and early intervention specialists be developed to ensure a collaborative approach to family-focused and child-oriented inclusive practices

More specific practices geared toward making the inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood services easier and more equitable are also promoted:

  • Simpler, more positively phrased application processes that identify child and family goals with the support required to reach these. Failing this, support at the service level to prepare funding submissions and, at the very least, a simple written resource with full details of the schemes, their application processes, and how to write a successful application could be made available.
  • Devolution of allocation and coordination of funds to the local level to ensure a better match between the infrastructure and resources of the community and the needs of the child and family.
  • Community-based 'one-stop-shops', comprising children's services and diagnostic services to provide a central location for distributing funds, resources, coordination and collaboration between specialist teams and mainstream early childhood services.
  • All extra resources - whether funding, service staff or consultant specialists - are used to assist the child to participate in the everyday routines and activities of the service.
  • All staff must engage in family-centred work training.

Three problem areas that require much needed research remain:

1. There is little to guide early childhood agencies in how to achieve successful inclusion;
2. There is little to assist families in choosing one service over another; and,
3. There is scant evidence of which inclusion practices are most effective for particular children with disabilities and their families.


Young Children with Disabilities in NSW Children's Services (1999)

Llewellyn, G. & Fante, M. (1999). Young Children with Disabilities in NSW Children's Services. Office of Childcare: NSW Department of Community Services.

A summary of this project can also be found in NSW Department of Community Services (2000). Insights Into Research: Four Studies on Early Childhood Issues and Children's Services (pp. 93 - 122). Office of Childcare: NSW Department of Community Services.

Background

There is a remarkable lack of data about children with disabilities and child care arrangements in Australia with child care data only indicating informal and formal care for children generally. Some Australian evidence however points to unmet demand for both child care and respite by families of young children with disabilities (Bowman & Virtue, 1993; Llewellyn, Dunn, Fante, Turnbull & Grace, 1999).

Further, children with disabilities and their families have been shown to remain primarily within the specialist sector in which services, such as early intervention, are provided only to those with special needs. This is not to suggest that children with disabilities are not entering child care: children with disabilities are being included in all types of child care arrangements. However, children with disabilities are still regarded as a separated group, apart from and different to the common experience of the mainstream child care sector.

International research shows increasing numbers of infants and young children with disabilities to be attending formal child care from an early age. Studies from North America for example, have demonstrated that families of young children with disabilities are seeking entry into the workforce at the same rate as other families and are increasingly seeking inclusion experiences for their child with a disability (Landis, 1992; Bailey, Blasco & Simeonsson, 1992; Freedman, Litchfield & Warfiled, 1995).

These families however have greater difficulty finding appropriate and adequate child care arrangements, particularly if their child has high support needs or complex health care needs or is assisted by technology. Factors associated with organisational context can act as barriers or facilitators of inclusive settings to the extent that, for example, when government policies prohibit funding being used in flexible ways, funding itself becomes a barrier to inclusion.

Of the few international studies that have attempted to determine the enrolment of children with disabilities in early childhood services, estimates vary from around 1% to 5% of all children enrolled (Crowley, 1990; Markos-Capps & Godfrey, 1999; Parrino & Thacker, 1994). The most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figure contained in the Disability, Ageing and Carers, 1998 publication put the rate of disability in children aged 0 - 4 years as 4% for Australia as a whole. Based on 1993 ABS figures, the reported rate of disability amongst the NSW population aged 0 - 17 years is 6.5%.

The literature supports the inclusion of children with disabilities in the everyday activities of preschool programs with the caveat of ensuring the provision of high quality programs and appropriate curricula (Kontos, Moore & Giorgeffi, 1998). Maintaining good inclusive programs has been shown to require several elements, of which the primary one is good relationships between adults. Other components include:

  • A clearly articulated philosophy that emphasizes and values diversity in children.
  • Policies and procedures which foster mutual collaboration and cooperation between children's services and specialist services.
  • Highly collaborative planning and decision making between children's services personnel, specialist services and families.
  • An ability to accommodate specialized and/or intensive programs for children with disabilities with the naturalistic experiences of the children's services setting.
  • Positive, collaborative and cooperative relationships between adults aiming to seek the best outcomes for the child and their family.

A family centred approach to working with families with children with disabilities is also strongly supported in the international literature. Eight key elements have been identified as achieving family centred practices (Shelton & Stepanek, 1995):

1. Acknowledging the family as the constant in the child's life.
2. Facilitating family/professional collaboration.
3. Exchanging complete and unbiased information between families and professionals.
4. Honouring cultural diversity.
5. Respecting each family's individuality in their adaption to their child's needs and each family's expressed goals.
6. Facilitating family-to-family support and networking.
7. Ensuring all services are flexible, accessible and comprehensive.
8. Appreciating families as families and children as children first, taking into account their wide range of strengths, concerns, emotions and aspirations beyond their need for specialized services and support.

Australian research suggests that despite intended policy, families of children with disabilities do not experience services as being family-oriented. The call remains for all staff, no matter how experienced, to engage in staff development to acquire the knowledge and skills required for collaborative and family-focused roles. At the very least, child care services need to:

  • Make a commitment to including children with disabilities and communicating this commitment to families.
  • Provide adequate information in ways which are user-friendly for families.
  • Offer extensive opportunities for families to ask questions and receive answers which meet their need to know.
  • Allow sufficient time to observe inclusion in action and develop their own level of comfort with the concept.
  • Provide a variety of ways to 'try out' inclusion for the child and the family.

For families of children with disabilities, making the move between caring for their child at home and arranging formal child care can be stressful given concerns about whether or not their child will be accepted, understood and adequately cared for. Research suggests that clearly defined procedures and processes, sharing the experience with other parents and the provision of family-friendly literature can assist in this process.

Of course, not all families will seek an inclusive setting for their young child particularly if the child has high support needs. Yet for those families that do, there is a remarkable lack of family-friendly information about the options available.

Aims

This research consultancy - Young Children with Disabilities in NSW Children's Services - was undertaken on behalf of the Office of Childcare, NSW Department of Community Services. The project was conducted over a 7-month period from April to October 1999. The focus of the project was on children aged birth to six years in children's services, with a later addition of Out of School Hours (OOSH) and Vacation Care services (up to age 12) at the request of the Office of Childcare.

The project aimed to:

  • Identify appropriate service models for inclusion of young children with disabilities in children's services that facilitate the achievement of better outcomes for these children and their families;
  • Identify factors which contribute to young children with disabilities being actively included into particular children's services; and,
  • Develop recommendations about the most appropriate and relevant service type/s and models for use across the children's service sector in NSW to ensure children with disabilities, their families and their communities achieve positive outcomes.

The above purposes were later extended to include OOSH and Vacation care services with the aim of exploring the current provisions and models used by OOSH and Vacation Care for children with disabilities.

Method

The central core of this project was a snapshot picture of children with disabilities in children's services by way of:

  • A field survey with children's services in selected regions of NSW;
  • Focus groups with children's service personnel in those regions;
  • Interviews and focus groups with members of children's and disability organizations; and,
  • Interviews with key Commonwealth and State department personnel involved in children and/or disability policy, planning and service delivery.

Research and recommendations were based upon aspects of:

  • Policy, Planning and Funding
  • Service Models
  • Training
  • Resources Support

Results

(A) The Field Survey

Of the 1195 children's services involved in the field survey, 353 returned surveys. 229 of these services enrolled 946 children with disabilities. Preschool and long day care centres represented by far the majority of services enrolling children with disabilities (90.5%). The most common diagnosed disability type was language/speech delay (27.2%), followed by global developmental disability (15.6%).

80.2% of children with a diagnosed disability were accessing specialist medical and disability personnel. This occurred on a consultative basis for over 30% of these children. Early intervention and therapy services were widely used for children with a diagnosed disability. Speech therapy was the most frequently used service. 55% of children awaiting diagnosis were receiving outside support arranged by the service.

75.4% of children were receiving assistance from additional staff, specialist aides or teachers with specialist knowledge. Untrained aides were usually employed to meet the needs of all children within the service.

For 47.3% of children with disabilities equipment generally available in the service was used to meet their special needs. Toys and games and then books were most frequently used and these may have been purchased in addition to existing equipment.

For 44.2% of the children with disabilities staff training was implemented. This comprised mainly of specific intervention strategies. Training was of a general nature for all of the staff more often when children were awaiting a diagnosis.

For 19% of children modifications were made to buildings. These modifications were associated with easier mobility and access; primarily in pre-schools and long day care services.

9.2% of children were recipients of specialist equipment. Services were concerned with equipment costs versus the length of a child's stay in the service.

28% of respondents used funds to access specialized or additional staff to increase the staff:child ratio or to meet children's specific needs. 19% said that funding advantaged the service through access to additional staff; 18% said that funding aided inclusion; 11% felt that access to advice and direction facilitated by funding produced a better qualified service worthy of a good reputation with regard to serving children with disabilities.

22% of respondents felt that financial constraints acted as a barrier to enrolling children with disabilities. The second most common barrier was inadequate staff:child ratios. There was a perception that children would require help separate to the centre population and a lack of professional support discouraged enrolment. The 'level' of a child's disability influenced enrolment decisions.

(B) Consultations and Literature Review

In keeping with the review of current literature three substantive issues emerged from the consultations described above:

1. Children's Services Have Become An Accepted Part Of Life For Many Australian Families
At the Commonwealth level, child care policy is focused on ensuring affordable, flexible and high quality child care for young children in Australia. Families with children with disabilities are no different in wanting - and needing - to participate in children's services and child care arrangements for their child with a disability. Moreover, being included in mainstream early childhood services - as part of their local neighbourhood community - is the first and essential step on the path to full inclusion in the community for children with disabilities and their families. Being part of mainstream OOSH and Vacation Care services confirms for children with disabilities, their families and the wider community that children with disabilities are an integral part of our communities.
2. The Experience of Children with Disabilities and Their Families Remains Primarily One of 'Special Treatment'
This is the case despite increasing numbers of children with disabilities participating in early childhood services, OOSH and Vacation Care. This experience is exacerbated by the perception in the sector that including children with disabilities can only proceed if funds are made available to support the child and/or the service. While this project has found that funds are an important component of support to the inclusion of children with disabilities, equally important are the attitudes, beliefs and knowledge of service personnel.
3. Children's Services Including OOSH and Vacation Care and Early Childhood Intervention Services Have a Shared Responsibility to Identify and Prepare for the Full Range of Potentially Eligible Children Within Their Everyday Practice.
To do so, children's services including OOSH and Vacation Care, in collaboration and consultation with early childhood intervention specialists, need to develop service models that are sufficiently flexible to respond to changing demographics in Australian society and the diversity of families and children in the community. These demographics include:
* Increasing participation of families with young children in the workforce;
* Unmet demand for suitable child care and for respite as well as work-related commitments;
* Better informed parents with expressed choices based on information and their desire to gain value for money; and,
* Increasing the numbers of children with disabilities included in mainstream children's services

(C) Policy, Planning and Funding

In the area of policy, planning and funding, several key issues emerged:

  • There is currently no comprehensive policy, planning or funding framework for the inclusion of children with disabilities in NSW children's services. Responsibilities are spread across multiple departments at Federal and State level - the Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services (FCS), the NSW Department of Community Services (DoCS), the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET), the Ageing and Disability Department (ADD) and NSW Health.
  • These various government departments have differing policy objectives, planning processes and funding eligibility and accountability criteria. This results in a complex, confusing and fragmented approach to providing services to children with disabilities and their families.
  • There are multiple sources of funding to assist the inclusion of children with disabilities in children's services. However these sources have varying funding objectives and eligibility criteria and are poorly understood by the children's services sector, early childhood intervention personnel and families. These funding sources require resource-intensive documentation that is particularly over-burdensome given the small amount of additional funds available to support inclusion of children with disabilities.
  • The most frequently accessed funding scheme was DoCS Special Needs Assistance (26.7%), followed by DET Intervention Support Program (19.9%), FCS SUPS (14%), FCS SNSS (12.6%), with low frequencies for DET Disabilities and Learning Difficulties scheme (3.4%) and ADD funding (2.5%).
  • There is a perception by the children's services sector that inclusion of children with disabilities is dependent on extra funding. Therefore, services can be unwilling to accept children with disabilities without access to extra funds particularly when there is neither legislative mandate nor policy directive to do so.
  • The multiple and frequently incompatible data bases of information held by the various government departments on children's services including OOSH and Vacation Care militate against developing a comprehensive understanding of children's services in NSW and engaging the sector in research and development projects.
  • This fragmented approach to policy and planning, the funding complexity and the perception that children with disabilities cannot be included in mainstream children's services unless additional funding is forthcoming, all actively work against mainstream children's services welcoming children with disabilities and their families.

Service Models

A focus on service models brought the following issues to light:

  • Current models of practice with regard to inclusion of children with disabilities in NSW children's services appear to be based on individual or professional perceptions of how children should be included and/or on funding criteria.
  • A number of barriers to and factors influencing successful inclusion for children with disabilities were identified. These stemmed from the funding constraints noted above; attitudes such as a child with a disability being viewed as 'additional' to the group of children in a centre; limited staff skills and knowledge; and, inadequate resources to effectively support children with disabilities.
  • The most common model adopted is consultative specialist support followed by the addition of another staff person to work with the child with a disability. In the latter case, a support person may work exclusively with the child in the childcare setting or work with the entire service, staff, children and families to ensure successful inclusion of one or more children with disabilities. Exactly how this occurs appears to be dependent on staff attitudes toward inclusion and service priorities.
  • There are also various models of specialist professional assistance to early childhood services. These range from a withdrawal model where the professional works exclusively with the nominated child away from the rest of the group to provision of a consultancy service where the professional works with and through the child care staff to ensure that the child is fully included in all experiences undertaken by children within that service.
  • There is an absence of information about the experiences of children with disability or their families in children's services including OOSH and Vacation Care and indeed, no information about how the various models of practice referred to above influence child, family or community outcomes.
  • At this time there is little evidence to propose one or more definitive best practice models. The findings of the field survey suggest that the most frequently accessed support by children's services, that is, outside specialist support, is a function of funding policy rather than necessarily a function of best practice based on educational principles, family-centred philosophies, or integration or inclusion policies.

(E) Training

Key issues also emerged from the area of training:

  • There is a lack of awareness and knowledge in parts of the mainstream children's services sector of the importance of, and the need to include children with disabilities, and the processes by which successful inclusion can occur.
  • There is a lack of knowledge about children with disabilities and a lack of confidence in services to accommodate these children leading to an over-estimation of the support required for children to be included.
  • A divide exists between the specialist educational approach from the early intervention sector and the generic educational approach favoured by the mainstream children's sector. This divide is based on different educational philosophies and professional perspectives and is reinforced by separate pre-service, in-service and continuing education programs.
  • There is a lack of awareness of the necessary components to ensure best practice with families with children with disabilities. The concepts of family-centred work, which actively supports families in their decision-making and promotes family empowerment to make choices that are congruent with their family goals, beliefs and values, are not widely understood in the mainstream children's services sector.

(F) Resource Support

Finally, resource support for the inclusion of children was characterized by a number of key issues:

  • There is a lack of accessible, comprehensive, and easy to follow documentation to support the process of inclusion of children with disabilities and their families in mainstream childhood services. In particular what is missing is information to support families as their child enters a mainstream children's service either from home or from an early intervention service.
  • There is a shortage of qualified and experienced children's services personnel to provide the additional support that services may require to assist the inclusion of children with disabilities.
  • There is a lack of collaborative interaction between specialist and mainstream childhood services around information exchange, resource sharing, efficiency and effectiveness processes and liaison with families and the community.
  • There are a number of services, by report, which are not engaging in discussion about, nor enrolling children with disabilities.
  • There is no readily available support for children's services including OOSH and Vacation Care when a family wishes to enrol their child with a disability without prior notice.

Recommendations

1.1

It is recommended that DoCS, through the Office of Childcare, in consultation with key stakeholders including the Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services (FCS) and with particular reference to the Early Childhood Intervention Coordination Program (ECICP) Management Committee, and as a matter of urgency, undertake a project to develop a collaborative policy, planning and funding framework for inclusion of children with a disability in mainstream children's services including OOSH and Vacation Care in NSW.

The objective of this recommendation is to develop a collaborative, coordinated and comprehensive framework for policy, planning and distribution of funds to ensure the inclusion of children with a disability in mainstream children's services including OOSH and Vacation care in NSW.

1.2

It is recommended that serious consideration be given to developing a comprehensive funding model which allocates funds on a per child basis to be made available as needed to all children's services including OOSH and Vacation Care used by the child and that, in the first instance, DoCS gives serious consideration to putting in place a planning and distribution model which allocates funds to individual children to redistribute the Special Needs Assistance funds until such time as the comprehensive policy, planning and funding framework referred to in Recommendation 1.1 is implemented.

The objective of this recommendation is to simplify an overly complex, fragmented, rarely transportable and typically misunderstood system of allocating funds by acknowledging the diversity of children's needs and that these needs may vary across service settings and change over time and in the first instance to ensure equitable distribution of Special Needs Assistance (SNA) funds that are currently distributed on a previous allocation formula that has not changed since 1987.

1.3

Until such time as a comprehensive policy, planning and funding framework can be put in place, it is recommended that each funding scheme, as a matter of priority, produce and then widely distribute simplified documentation in relation to funding objectives, eligibility criteria and accountability requirements.

The objective of this recommendation is to ensure that families and children's service personnel across the State are aware of, and supported to, apply for financial support to assist the inclusion of children with disabilities in children's services including OOSH and Vacation Care.

2.1

It is recommended that DoCS, through the Office of Childcare, as a matter of priority and in consultation with key stakeholders, commission a pilot project built on action research principles, which involves early childhood specialists, children's services personnel, families and researchers working together to develop a best practice model for providing the "best of both worlds" to children with disabilities in mainstream children's services including OOSH and Vacation Care.

The objective of this recommendation is to develop, in a collaborative fashion, a best practice model for the inclusion of children with disabilities in children's services, that reflects international research and the requirements of families, service personnel and local communities.

3.1

It is recommended that DoCS and ADD in consultation with key stakeholders and with particular reference to the ECICP, and as a matter of urgency, develop training objectives which address the training needs of early childhood intervention and mainstream children's services personnel and ensure that these objectives are incorporated into funding agreements.

The objective of this recommendation is to ensure a collaborative, coordinated approach to training to promote a more effective and productive interface between early childhood services and early childhood intervention in NSW.

3.2

It is recommended that DoCS, through the Office of Childcare, commission a review of pre-service, graduate and continuing education courses in education and health sciences in relation to information on inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream children's services including OOSH and Vacation Care.

The objective of this recommendation is to actively encourage the educational institutions in NSW to identify gaps and work towards ensuring more adequate training in inclusive, family-friendly practices in the mainstream children's services sector in NSW.

4.1

That DoCS, through the Office of Childcare in partnership with ADD and in consultation with key stakeholders, identify examples of exemplary practice of collaboration between children's services, early intervention services and OOSH and Vacation Care and develop strategies to promote those key components of good practice more widely to the mainstream children's services and early intervention sectors.

The objective of this recommendation is to facilitate wide distribution of local, inter-agency and service collaboration and coordination best practice efforts to best suit the particular needs of that community.

4.2

That DoCS, through the Office of Childcare in collaboration with ADD and in consultation with key stakeholders, commission an action research project involving families, mainstream children's services personnel and early intervention workers in developing best practice guidelines for the 'transition' of children with disabilities and their families from their home and/or early intervention settings into children's services including OOSH and Vacation Care.

The objective of this recommendation is to ensure that children with disabilities and their families do not experience undue stress in moving from home and/or early intervention services into children's services including OOSH and Vacation Care.

Conclusion

Approaches to inclusion are currently driven by funding criteria and the perception that additional funding is fundamental to the successful inclusion of children with disabilities. Successful inclusion in the future requires cohesive, clear and universally understood approaches to policy, planning, funding, training and resource management.

There are exemplary practices occurring in NSW where service directors show strong leadership and create a welcoming, inclusive and developmentally and educationally sound environment for children with disabilities along with their peers. The next task is to identify the essential components of this practice and translate these into action across the children's services sector so that all children with disabilities, their families and their communities may benefit.

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