Early Childhood NDIS Support


Published: 09 July 2023

Anyone under the age of 65 living with a developmental delay or a disability that significantly affects their daily life is eligible to request access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). This includes children, some of whom may fall into the early childhood category (NDIS 2021).

Providers who deliver early childhood support are expected to adhere to the Early Childhood Supports Module within the NDIS Practice Standards, which sets out specific requirements for working with young children.

This article will provide an overview of each component of the Early Childhood Supports Module.

The NDIS Early Childhood Approach

As of 1 July 2023, children under six years of age with developmental delay and children under nine years of age living with disability can receive support through the NDIS early childhood approach (NDIS 2023).

The early childhood approach is delivered via local providers funded by the NDIS known as early childhood partners. Early childhood partners have clinical expertise in supporting young children who are experiencing developmental delay or living with disability (NDIS 2022).

These providers can:

  • Provide information about child development
  • Connect parents to appropriate supports and services e.g. playgroups, childcare, parent support groups
  • Use information from screening tools, assessments and reports to gain a better understanding of the child’s disability (they cannot perform assessments to diagnose the child, however)
  • Provide short-term early supports
  • Connect parents to best practice early childhood intervention service providers
  • Assist parents to apply for the NDIS
  • Monitor the child’s process and assist in transitioning from the early child approach.

(NDIS 2022)

Early childhood partners might provie support in the following areas:

  • Communication
  • Self-care skills like eating, toileting and dressing
  • Fussy eating
  • Behaviour management
  • Gross and fine motor skills
  • Social skills and pretend play
  • Sleep
  • Emotional regulation
  • Parent education
  • Accessing services in the community
  • Transitioning to school.

(RCHM 2017)

Early Childhood Supports Module

The following NDIS standards apply to providers who deliver early childhood supports:

The Child

Providers are expected to support children to develop functional skills and participate meaningfully in everyday activities with peers (NDIS 2020).

NDIS providers must meet the following quality indicators:

  • Understanding and application of legal and human rights
  • Implementation of risk management practices and procedures to create a safe environment for children
  • Adherence to all relevant legislation related to the reporting of risk of harm to children
  • Involvement of the child’s support network in their development
  • Ensuring that alternative arrangements for the continuity of supports (where changes or interruptions are unavoidable) are:
    • Consented to by the child and/or their family
    • Delivered in a manner that meets the child’s needs, preferences and goals.

(NDIS 2021)

mother helping child wash her hands
Providers are expected to support children to develop functional skills and participate meaningfully in everyday activities with peers.

Strengths-Based Practice

A strengths-based practice empowers children by focusing on their abilities and potential rather than what they are unable to do. It builds upon the existing capabilities of both children and their families, supporting them to exercise autonomy and recognise what they can offer (ECIA 2016).

The Family

The family of the child should receive family-centred support that is culturally inclusive, responsive and focuses on their strengths (NDIS 2021).

NDIS providers must meet the following quality indicators:

  • Support plans are undertaken with the family and based upon child and family control
  • Providers acknowledge and respect the family’s knowledge about their child
  • Providers work alongside the family to identify their strengths, needs and priorities
  • Support plans are flexible and individualised to the preferences of the child and their family
  • Support plans are culturally responsive and respectful
  • Support is integrated into the child’s everyday routine and is provided in a clear, flexible and easily understandable way
  • Providers support the family to develop their own network of resources
  • Providers assist the family in participating and contributing to their child’s development.

(NDIS 2021)

Family-Centred Practice

A vital component of this standard is family-centred practice, an approach to working with children and their families that recognises the critical role families play in their children’s lives and encourages providers to work with them collaboratively (ECIA 2016).

Family-centred practice enables and empowers families to participate in their child’s care. It acknowledges and values the expertise families can offer about their children and shifts the decision-making power to them. Providers adopt a more supportive role, offering resources and information while enabling the family to take charge (ECIA 2016).

The key principles of family-centred care are:

  • Families are supported to participate in decision-making as much as they wish to be involved
  • Parents are recognised as having ultimate responsibility for their children
  • All families and family members are treated with respect
  • Providers support and encourage the strengths and needs of families.

Being Culturally Responsive

Culturally responsive practice involves fostering an environment that is welcoming and culturally inclusive of the child and their family. It recognises, respects and responds to the needs of diverse families, encouraging them to remain engaged (ECIA 2016). Culturally responsive practice may take into account:

  • Culture
  • Ethnicity
  • Race
  • Language
  • Socioeconomic status.

(ECIA 2016)


Providers should support children in their natural environments while facilitating inclusive and meaningful social engagement (NDIS 2021).

NDIS providers must meet the following quality indicators:

  • Providers focus on the child’s functioning in their natural learning environment when assessing their development
  • The child is supported to participate in family life, community life and natural environments. Their participation is inclusive, active and meaningful
  • Providers help to foster networks between the family, their community and other support agencies
  • The child is supported to participate in daily routines in their natural learning environment.

(NDIS 2021)

Inclusive and Participatory Practice

group of toddlers playing together
Children should be able to interact with children who do not live with disability.

Inclusive and participatory practice aims to promote a sense of belonging and acceptance for children living with disability. Regardless of any additional needs a child may have, they should be supported to engage in family and community life actively. They are expected to be given the same choices, opportunities and experiences as other children (ECIA 2016).

Active engagement means that rather than being an observer, the child is supported to participate in activities and feels that their contributions are valued (ECIA 2016). The child should be able to:

  • Develop relationships with others
  • Be given opportunities
  • Participate in all activities
  • Interact with children who do not live with disability (rather than being separated from them).

(ECIA 2016)

Providers should assist in the implementation of appropriate strategies and adaptations that allow children to participate in everyday activities meaningfully. This is a key component of the provider’s role (ECIA 2016).


A collaborative team comprising the child’s family and relevant providers should coordinate the delivery of support to the child while addressing specified needs and priorities (NDIS 2021).

A well-functioning collaborative team requires sound communication between the family and participating providers, in addition to joint decision-making and problem-solving. The aim is to foster a shared sense of understanding and responsibility whilst working towards the common goal of supporting the child. However, families should always remain the central decision-makers (ECIA 2016).

NDIS providers must meet the following quality indicators:

  • Providers and families work together to designate a key worker if the family wishes to do so
  • Families and participating providers form close collaborative links for the delivery of support
  • Information, knowledge and skills are shared between the family and participating providers (with the family’s consent)
  • Supports and services collaborate to ensure transition and exit planning meet the family’s needs.

(NDIS 2021)

Capacity Building

Children, families and their providers should be assisted in developing knowledge, skills and abilities. By enhancing their skillsets, families and providers will become more adequately equipped to support the child’s learning and development. This may be achieved through coaching or collaborative work (NDIS 2021; ECIA 2016).

NDIS providers must meet the following quality indicators:

  • Children’s support networks are assisted in building their capacity to achieve functional outcomes
  • Families are supported to develop an understanding of how routines and daily activities can assist their children’s development
  • Children, families and their providers are supported to develop their skills through coaching, capacity building supports and collaborative teamwork
  • Children, families and their providers are affirmed, challenged and supported to develop their skills, practice and relationships
  • Providers use feedback from all participating parties to improve the support delivered to the child.

(NDIS 2021)

mother helping child to read
Families and providers should become more adequately equipped to support the child’s learning and development.

Evidence-Informed Practice

Providers are expected to deliver evidence-informed support based on research and practice. Evidence-informed practice should take into account:

  • Empirically-supported interventions
  • Clinical expertise or practice wisdom
  • The family’s values, preferences and circumstances.

(ECIA 2016)

In order for providers to remain informed and up-to-date, they should:

  • Undertake lifelong continuing professional development
  • Frequently review and monitor practices to ensure they are working appropriately
  • Undertake critical reflection and self-assessment.

(ECIA 2016)

NDIS providers must meet the following quality indicators:

  • Intervention strategies used are based on explicit principles, validated practices, best available research and appropriate laws and regulations
  • Providers possess the required information, knowledge, skills and expertise to deliver high-quality support
  • Providers maintain and refine their knowledge through continuing professional development, monitoring and self-reflection.

(NDIS 2021)

Outcome-Based Practice

Supports should be goal-oriented and identify desired outcomes for the child (NDIS 2021). Rather than focusing on service outcomes, providers are expected to focus on positive results for the child and their family. Outcomes should be individualised to suit the child’s circumstances and may even be set by the child’s family. Key outcomes for the child may include:

  • Social-emotional wellbeing
  • Skills acquisition and use
  • Use of appropriate behaviours to meet needs.

(ECIA 2016)

Key outcomes for the family may include:

  • Improved sustainability of routines
  • Improved advocacy skills
  • Family and social supports
  • Reduced stress
  • Greater quality-of-life for the family
  • Empowerment
  • Access to services and resources.

(ECIA 2016)

NDIS providers must meet the following quality indicators:

  • Functional outcomes are based on the needs and priorities of children and their families. Providers collaborate with children and families to identify the necessary skills for achieving these outcomes
  • Children have documented support plans comprising interventions and their functional outcomes
  • Families are actively involved in conducting assessments and developing support plans
  • Families are provided with a copy of the support plan in the format that best suits them
  • Functional outcomes aim to promote the child’s meaningful participation in family and community life
  • Providers conduct assessments, intervention planning and outcomes in a way that the family can understand.

(NDIS 2021)


Test Your Knowledge

Question 1 of 3

True or false: It is beneficial for children living with developmental delay or a disability to interact with children who do not live with disability or developmental delay.


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