Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Early Childhood

Enabling the Exercise of Choice and Control: How Early Childhood Intervention Professionals May Support Families and Young Children with a Disability to Exercise Choice and Control in the Context of the National Disability Insurance Scheme

Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Early Childhood

Enabling the Exercise of Choice and Control: How Early Childhood Intervention Professionals May Support Families and Young Children with a Disability to Exercise Choice and Control in the Context of the National Disability Insurance Scheme

Article excerpt

Introduction

Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) professionals work with families of young children with a disability to build child and family capacity in order to improve child learning and development outcomes. Family-centred practice, which aims to improve children's developmental trajectories, is undertaken within the context of government policy, and concepts and expectations underpinning policy have the potential to impact on the effectiveness of professional practice and partnerships.

In 2016 the Commonwealth Government commenced the progressive full scheme implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), mooted as one of the most significant social reforms to take place in Australia (NDIS, 2013a). The NDIS aims to support people with a disability to optimise independence and participation in all aspects of their lives, including early childhood education (NDIS, 2016a). Inherent in the NDIS is the notion of participant choice and control--the person with a disability is termed a 'participant' in the Scheme and the intention is for the participant to have 'choice' and 'control' over their service provision (NDIS, 2013b). The new policy reflects a major policy shift to a consumerism model, involving a re-orientation of funding to the participant rather than the provider, similar to the changes experienced in the mainstream early childhood education and care environment over the past 20 years (Logan, Press & Sumsion, 2016), and effectively assuming that choices can be authentic and made with knowledge about what constitutes quality in service provision. For young children with disabilities, policy acknowledges, to some extent, that it may be the family who is the participant.

It is thus timely to review the research that investigates what the notion of choice and control over service provision will mean for families and young children with a disability, and how ECI professionals can effectively support this decision making. In this article we will explore the existing evidence to delineate effective evidence-based practices that enable ECI professionals to support families and children to exercise choice and control.

Context and background

The NDIS aims to promote more equitable and sustainable support for people with a disability, in particular to optimise independence and participation in all aspects of their lives through active choice and control around access to services (NDIS, 2016b). Early childhood intervention (ECI) is an important context in which positive outcomes for families and children with a disability are achieved (Bruder, 2010; UN, 1989, 2006; World Health Organization & UNICEF, 2012) and ECI professionals are key people who mediate the effectiveness of these outcomes through their engagement with families and children with a disability in the education system. As such, ECI professionals play a critical role in enhancing families' and children's capacity to make choices and control decisions that promote their 'development, wellbeing and community participation' (ECIA, 2016, p. 4).

Prior to the NDIS, ECI professionals have been required to implement family-centred, child-focused, transdisciplinary and strengths-based practices that build family capacity and child outcomes (DET, 2016a; ECIA, 2016; Hollo, 2009) (see Table 1).

The introduction of the NDIS has an increased emphasis on ECI professionals building family capacity through choice and control. This emphasis aligns with the National Quality Standard (NQS) requirement for early childhood educators to promote children's agency, thus 'enabling them to make choices and decisions' (ACECQA, 2011, p. 19). There is currently, however, a lack of research that investigates what the notion of choice and control over service provision means for families and young children with a disability, and how ECI professionals can effectively support their agency in this regard. …

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