Frequently asked questions about support for children with additional needs in early childhood education and care
My child has additional needs and I'd like support from the Victorian Inclusion Agency. What can I do?
Our free program supports early childhood education and care educators and services to include every child that comes through their door. Our program works closely with educators to build their capacity to ensure inclusive access and safe environments for all children and their families. If the long day care, family day care, outside school hours care or occasional care service your child attends isn’t accessing our program, you can encourage them to get in touch with one of our Inclusion Professionals on 1800 177 017.
As a family of a child accessing education and care, you may wish to discuss potential resources with your service to implement from the Inclusion Support Program. Collaboration between a family and service offers the opportunity to work through the needs and interests of children, together identifying appropriate supports to establish and maintain inclusive environments. The resources of the ISP/VIA are available to support these communication partnerships as needed, ensuring opportunities and pathways towards inclusion for all.
Is inclusion support only for children with disabilities or additional needs?
No. Inclusion support is for any child with additional needs, including children from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, children from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, children with medical and health conditions, children with trauma-related behaviours, and more.
Are there any prerequisites for a child to be able to receive inclusion support?
The child must have access to Child Care Subsidy (CCS) in order for a service to explore inclusion support funding streams. You can learn more about CCS through Services Australia.
Can a child with special needs be excluded from day care?/Can a service refuse a child with a disability or additional needs?
Education and care services are available to support all children. In accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, Australian education services, including long day care, family day care, outside school hours care and occasional care services cannot exclude or refuse access because of a person’s disability. The service must also make reasonable adjustments to accommodate a person with a disability or additional needs.
Will a mainstream long day care, family day care, outside school hours care or occasional care service be able to provide my child with the support they need?
Yes. We help Victorian early childhood education and care services to ensure every child receives the support they need to thrive. Through our free program, children’s services can access many types of support for children with additional needs, for example, specialist equipment, translation services or an additional educator.
What are some of the ways a children’s service can support my child with additional needs?
There are many ways children’s services can meet a child’s individual needs. For example:
- The introduction of basic Auslan may support a child with a hearing impairment
- The presence of a bicultural support worker may reassure a child who has recently immigrated
- The practise of simple relaxation exercises may help to calm a child experiencing anxiety
- The development of a Reconciliation Action Plan may help an Aboriginal child and their family to feel welcome and safe
- The use of visual supports may help a child with autism to maintain focus.
How can I find a suitable early childhood education and care service in my community?
Choosing the right long day care, family day care, outside school hours or occasional care service can feel like a minefield for any family, but it can be even more overwhelming if you have a child with additional needs. You may be worried about how your child will ‘fit in’ to a mainstream environment or feel anxious about how well your child’s specific needs will be met.
When looking for a suitable education and care service, take some time to explore a potential service's capacity to appropriately and safely provide an inclusive and meaningfully engaging environment, which responds to the needs of your child.
To start, you can search for early childhood education and care services in your local area with high quality ratings, which may indicate that they are well-placed to support your child. You can then contact the services on your shortlist and discuss your specific situation. Visit services and ask any questions you might have before making your final choice.
What can I do to make sure an early childhood, outside school hours or occasional care service is right for my child?
Communication is vital to your child’s inclusion at a service. Talk to the service about your child and how they can support your child to participate in the program.
By regularly sharing information about your child, you can build a shared understanding with the service about their needs. Discuss how your child is doing and their ongoing experience in the program, and address any concerns as they arise.
How do I know if my child is truly being included in long day care, family day care, outside school hours or occasional care?/What should a children’s service do to include my child?
If your child is truly being included in a program, they will be supported to participate, learn alongside their peers and build relationships with their peers and educators.
Ask your children’s service questions about your child’s day-to-day: does your child spend the majority of the day learning in the main room? How are learning activities modified to meet your child’s needs? How is your child being supported to develop friendships and connections? Find more helpful questions to ask.
Will the rest of the children ‘miss out’ if a child with additional needs is included?
No, research shows that all children benefit greatly from inclusive programs. Inclusive programs give typically-developing children the opportunity to gain an understanding and acceptance of everyone’s individual differences, increasing their empathy and respect for others. They also support children to hone important skills, like initiating social interactions, negotiating sharing, problem-solving and leadership.
Other inclusion agencies
Based outside of Victoria? These inclusion agencies also offer free support for children with additional needs in early childhood education and care:
Inclusion Support Tasmania
Hobart – (03) 6230 6840
Launceston – (03) 6324 1360
Ulverstone – (03) 6431 3026
email@example.com | https://gowrie-tas.com.au/inclusion-agency-tasmania/
More support for children with additional needs in early childhood education and care
- For support for children with additional needs in kindergarten, you can access the Kindergarten Inclusion Support Program
- For support with Koorie cultural inclusion, contact Koorie Education Coordinators Victoria
- Find Victorian government information and services for families of children living with a disability and/or additional needs.