Opinion

Pre-school parent and child programme

Expectant parents are bombarded with information and advice about the impending birth of their baby, and once the baby is born they are bombarded with information about expected developmental milestones
Early intervention programme

Susan Coleman describes the success of an early intervention service

Expectant parents are bombarded with information and advice about the impending birth of their baby, and once the baby is born they are bombarded with information about expected developmental milestones.

But what happens when a child doesnt meet these milestones and parents are told their child has a learning disability or global developmental delay? Aside from being upset by the news, they will have many questions and may not know where to turn for help.

Earlier intervention help

Early intervention is vital especially for children with learning disabilities. Buckley (2003) points out that children with learning disabilities need structured teaching and practice in order to help them to learn skills and activities that typically developing children acquire in their early years without

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Susan Coleman describes the success of an early intervention service

Expectant parents are bombarded with information and advice about the impending birth of their baby, and once the baby is born they are bombarded with information about expected developmental milestones.

Pre-school parent and child programme
Pre-school parent and child programme. Picture: iStock

But what happens when a child doesn’t meet these milestones and parents are told their child has a learning disability or global developmental delay? Aside from being upset by the news, they will have many questions and may not know where to turn for help.

Earlier intervention help

Early intervention is vital – especially for children with learning disabilities. Buckley (2003) points out that children with learning disabilities ‘need structured teaching and practice in order to help them to learn skills and activities that typically developing children acquire in their early years without explicit teaching’.

Bolton NHSFT Paediatric Learning Disability Service (PLDS) decided to run a pre-school parent and child group. This has been running successfully for the past two years.

The sessions consist of small groups and operate from children’s centres in Bolton. Each child is assessed before attending the group and is given an individual care plan which covers health topics such as eating and drinking, toileting, oral health, behaviour, sleep, and sensory/tactile issues.

Information sessions also give opportunities for parents and children to develop new skills and build a network of support.

Development evaluations

The previous service operated from one location in Bolton which gave it limited accessibility. It had a different format where the children were seen for 36 sessions without their parents/carers. They also had a weekly home visit.

At the end of the 36-week programme, the children continued to require support as the families had not been able to develop the skills to help them continue to make progress.

Now at the end of the 12-week sessions most families go on to confidently use the skills and knowledge gained during the sessions. A few of them are assessed and require further advice and support from the service and are allocated a learning disability nurse.

Session evaluations are completed at intervals and again at the end of the 12 weeks. Parents/carers are given a short evaluation form to identify whether the sessions met their needs.

Feedback results

To date we have had 100% return rate for the evaluation forms and feedback provided has identified that 86.1% of parents/carers said the session content had enabled them to gain knowledge and found the sessions helpful.
The forms ask for suggestions to support the development of future group sessions. This enables us to continually ensure we are meeting the needs and expectations of families.

Examples of feedback include:

  • ‘I have learned such a lot and now feel able to better support my child.’
  • ‘It makes you realise you’re not the only parent who has a child with additional needs.’
  • ‘I hadn’t realised what help was available before.’
  • ‘Some really good ideas seen to try at home.’

The National LD Professional Senate briefing paper (2015) says that services should focus on ‘putting the individual and their surrounding family or carers at the heart of the service’.

‘A comprehensive community support model and infrastructure requires at a minimum: an early intervention model to both support children and families and prevent the development of behaviour that challenges.’

Bolton’s PLDS has taken on these recommendations and has been successful at putting the family at the heart of the service – and at offering timely early interventions when parents and carers most need support.


References

Buckley S (2003) Keys to successful early intervention. Down syndrome News and Update. 3, 3, 73.

LD professional senate (2015) The National LD Professional Senate briefing paper. LD professional senate.


About the author

Susan Coleman is senior healthcare assistant, paediatric learning disabilities

 

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