The story of the Early Intervention Centre’s online service, (EIC-online), started while working at Beacon Audiology in Dublin South. Clients who commonly attended for paediatric hearing assessments included children presenting with:
• hearing loss due to recurrent ear infections or glue ear,
• children with a speech and language delay or
• children whose parents were concerned about a possible Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Some children presented with only ear-related issues, where others had multiple health and developmental concerns. Most of these children were already on HSE waiting lists either awaiting an assessment or were wait-listed for therapy.
The persistent problem of waiting Lists
Many parents expressed their frustration at the:
• Length of waiting lists
• The length of breaks between blocks of therapy and the
• Exasperating time between being diagnosed and receiving intervention with no advice or guidelines except to wait.
Parents reported that they were at a loss of what to do, to start addressing their child’s identified needs or where to access private therapists. Another observation was that some parents were uncertain of which developmental milestones were appropriate and what their child should be achieving at their current age and stage of development.
On speaking with parents, it often transpired that many children had been placed on lengthy waiting lists for specific developmental concerns e.g. difficulty with ‘s’ and ‘r’ sounds, which in reality should have caused no concern, as the perceived difficulty was indicative of normal child development for their age. This is an example of how the EIC-online Tool is hugely valuable in both educating a parent as to whether a developmental milestone is age appropriate and if so to offer much needed interim advice so as to give parents the tools to assist their child in stimulating their development while awaiting an assessment with the appropriate professional, which this tool will also identify.
The EIC-online Tool has numerous tips & advice for parents which will assist them in addressing a range of developmental concerns. It is one thing to find out that your child needs help, it is entirely another when we as parents are helpless to assist them. The Early Intervention Centre understands this and is committed to ensuring that parents remain central in their child’s development. Parents have always shown extreme interest in learning more about resources and training courses designed to target specific developmental concerns. Just as important in their eyes are recommendations for the most appropriate ‘referral pathway’ to access:
• Private consultants
• Autism specialists
• Paediatricians and therapists.
Another observation was the need for parental education on the different roles of therapists. Particularly the importance of:
Occupational Therapists in addressing self-help skills, sensory processing and attention issues & Paediatricians who are uniquely qualified to perform comprehensive ‘Medical & Developmental Assessments’ in a clinical setting with access to psychologists, and other therapists.
So after many months of researching the literature, studying evidence-based developmental screening and assessment questionnaires and consulting practising medical professionals & therapists, over 1000 questions were selected and changed into parent friendly language with 3 goals in mind:
1) To detect areas of delayed development based on typical developmental milestones
2) To identify health and developmental problems that warrant further investigation
3) To recommend what developmental milestones need to be stimulated at the child’s current age of development.
And hence the EIC-online was created as an early detection tool designed to screen for behavioural, health and developmental problems in children aged 0-5 years.
The software has 5 easy steps, and once the child is registered and payment is processed, parents can choose which of the 12 developmental areas they want to check. Parents have 48 hours to complete the check-lists and can select all areas if they want to monitor their child’s holistic development or simply concentrate on the specific areas of concern.
Questionnaires are displayed with options of (yes), (no) or (not applicable). Once completed, the results will be generated to show which developmental milestones are being reached and which are showing cause for concern. It also identifies areas that might warrant further diagnostic assessment or investigation – which are called ‘red flags’ or risk factors.
Parents have the option of adding their family GP contact details to the summary report and a copy of the results with identified red flags will be automatically emailed to their GP.
The Early Intervention Centre’s website offers the following additional supports and resources:
Educational & Therapy Resources – A resource section which is regularly updated with tried and tested therapy and educational materials.
Specialist Consultant & Practitioners – It also has a list of advisors who are known to be family-focused and child-centred if they have any specific discipline-specific questions or queries.
EIC Newsletter – Parents can also sign up to a monthly newsletter which will contain information on training courses, new resources and information on local therapy and medical services available to young children.
So, the Early Intervention Centre in its online form, aims to offer an excellent, cost-effective interim service for those who want to ascertain whether their child’s development is age appropriate and for those with children on lengthy HSE waiting lists.
It is a good resource for informing parents, educating parents and empowering parents to help their child reach their full potential.
Marinet Brennan – B.Speech & Audio, M.Sc in Speech Pathology
Early Intervention Centre