A/Prof. Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett1, Dr Michael Fasher2, Ms Eva Litherland3, Ms Nicole Fitzpatrick4
1University Of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia, 2Wentwest, Blacktown, Australia, 3Child and Family Health WSLHD, Doonside, Australia, 4Blacktown Kids Early Learning (BCC), Blacktown, Australia
Introduction. There is a substantial international research base demonstrating the robust and lasting positive impact of high quality early childhood education contexts on various aspects of children’s development; these findings are particularly marked for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Access to health, education and social welfare services are important for families with young children, but the way in which services operate often create fragmentation of experience for the family and wasted professionals’ time. The following presentation presents data on Tiny Tots Talking in Doonside, a place-based early intervention initiative intended to improve the quality of Early Childhood Education (ECE) in two pilot services in Doonside.
Method. The intervention had a specific focus on integration of services (health and education) and improving the ECE environment in ways known to optimise children’s communication, cognitive and social-emotional development. The project adopted a pre-, post- multi-case study design and included both objective measures of quality improvement and health engagement as well as qualitative reflections of program effectiveness. The intervention, which was conducted over an 18 month period, included weekly in-centre mentoring and support provided by a Speech Pathologist (SP) combined with structured group-based professional developmental sessions in the areas of social-emotional regulation, language and speech skills.
Results. Comparison of pre- and post- structural quality assessments revealed significant improvements in both educator practices and overall service quality (i.e., educators were more intentional in how they supported and encouraged children’s communication and vocabulary development and provided more sensitive individualised attention to children). Improvements were also noted in the quality of engagement with families, increases in the percentage of children receiving screening within ECEC and increases in the number of children receiving intervention by SP.
Conclusion. The presentation concludes with a discussion of the facilitators and challenges to ensuring effective models of integrated education and health delivery.