The DfE's Green
Paper Support and Aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability,
published in March 2011, emphasises the importance of effective identification of
SEN and disabilities if children are
to thrive, be ready for school, make good progress in their education and, as adults,
live independently and make as positive a contribution to society as
Early intervention from all the services on which families rely
is essential, but the effectiveness of
this support is undermined if it doesn't reflect each family's unique circumstances.
Department for Education, 2011
Sure Start guidance (2002):
A child under four years of age has a disability or special needs
if she or he:
(i) is experiencing significant developmental delays, in one or more of the areas of cognitive development, physical development, communication development, social or emotional development, and adaptive development; or
(ii) has a condition which has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay.
A key issue for all early intervention programmes is the identification
and targeting of those behaviours, skills and capabilities that have the greatest
impact on accelerating further development (eg communication skills, problem solving
and help seeking) of independence and well-being. To our knowledge little consideration
has been given to identifying these key or pivotal behaviours in the context of reducing
future need for social care.
Emerson et al, 2011
Stress is a condition in which an individual experiences challenges
to physical or emotional well-being that overwhelm their coping capacity. While some
experience with manageable stress is important for healthy development, prolonged,
uninterrupted, overwhelming stress can have toxic effects. This type of toxic stress
is often associated with childhood abuse and neglect. In the early years of life when
the brain is developing rapidly it is particularly sensitive to environmental influences.
Toxic early life stress (ELS) may induce persistent
hyper-sensitivity to stressors and sensitization of neural circuits and other neurotransmitter
systems which process threat information.
Gunnar et al, 2009
[C]ommunity supervision is necessary to ensure that the very preterm
child is supported in the important preschool years and into early school life. Careful
developmental assessment and early intervention for evolving impairments by a doctor
aware of the potential sequelae of prematurity are critical to optimal development
for the individual child.
As well as the danger of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, which
is the leading known cause of intellectual disability in the Western world, prenatal
exposure to alcohol has been associated with developmental delays and behavioural
problems. Psychosocial stress during pregnancy has been linked to increased risk for
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia and social abnormalities.
Bailey et al (2005) in a national follow-up of over 2,500 families
who had participated in early intervention programmes for children with disabilities
found that parents were very positive about helping their child to learn and looking
after their personal care needs but over a third of families 'often have a difficult
time figuring out what to do about my child's behavior'. This is an aspect of early
intervention programmes that may need further development.
Allen, G. (2011) Early Intervention: The next steps. London: Cabinet Office (accessed 12.1.12).
Department for Education (2011) Support and Aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability. Norwich: The Stationery Office (accessed 12.1.12).
You might also wish to read around the subject. If you do, the following three resources should prove useful.
Munro, E. (2011) The Munro Review of Child Protection: A child-centred system. London: Department for Education (accessed: 12.1.12).
Odom, S.L. and Wolery, M. (2003) A unified theory of practice in early intervention/early childhood special education: evidence-based practices, Journal of Special Education, 37, 164-173.