Parenting is hard work, and it can be one of the most difficult, yet rewarding experiences of our entire life, raising a child to grow up and become a citizen of society. We constantly question our methods and decisions as parents, and wonder if we are “doing it right”, all the while knowing that every child is different and will learn, grown and develop at their own individual pace. But what happens when that pace seems to fall behind? We visit our maternal child health nurses and complete the milestone questions about our child’s development, we compare our children with others at play group or kinder, and we read article after article on the internet about what our child “should” be doing by now. And it is completely normal for there to be differences between children. But as parents we also know our instincts, and we can often tell when something is not right, even before an expert can confirm it for us.
So when we start to feel that the development of our child is not quite where it should be, and we start to get genuine concern that perhaps they are not crawling or walking yet, or their speech isn’t quite catching the other children of their age, where do we go? What do we do? What is the process, to get the help we need and some answers?
Where to go if we are concerned about our child’s development?
We recently met up with Susan Martin from Noah’s Ark in Ballarat. Susan is the Team Leader for Early Childhood Intervention Services, and has been in the industry for years, however Noah’s Ark have only just recently opened in the Western Victoria Region, with the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). So we asked Susan, as parents, where do we begin, if we think our child has some delays in their development?
If you are concerned about any areas of your child’s development, the best place to start is with your Maternal & Child Health Nurse. They will screen your child for any areas of concern and have the experience and knowledge of what to look for when it comes to childhood development. With your regular visits it is even possible that your MCHN may pick up on something you haven’t noticed, particularly as a first time parent. But remember that all children learn at varying rates, so by your next visit they may have caught up, but you can make an appointment with your MCHN at any time to check in if you are worried.
Other starting points may be health professionals, your doctor or an education / child care provider such as kindergarten teacher or child care educator.
Your MCHN may then refer you on to a paediatrician for further assessment and testing. At this point they may determine that your child seems to be developing at a reasonable rate, or may require some monitoring over coming months to see how they go. Or they may determine some areas of concern immediately and refer you to the Early Childhood Early Intervention partners through Latrobe Community Health who work with children and families requiring assistance in their development.
The Early Childhood Early Intervention Partners will work with you and your child to determine the exact level of assistance required and help you find the right services to work with your child’s needs. It may be as simple as a few visits with a specialist such as a speech therapist or physiotherapist, or it may be a more complex delay in more than one area of their development.
If this is the case, and your child is found to have significant delays in multiple areas of development that are causing daily problems in the functioning of your child’s life and your family’s life, then you may well be eligible for assistance through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). And this is where services like Noah’s Ark can help. The Early Childhood Intervention Services will help you prepare a plan and assist you to select an NDIS provider (such as Noah’s Ark) to work with your child and provide the specialist services they need.
Once you are in the NDIS system your funding is directly allocated to you to select private providers and services of your choice, rather than having to wait for places to become available through public services as in the old system. However the NDIS is still being rolled out in some areas of the state through until 2018, and even in areas like Ballarat, where the NDIS is full rolled out, it can still be confusing and difficult for parents to navigate. So Noah’s Ark are available to meet with parents and advise as best they can, even if the parent has not yet selected Noah’s Ark as their provider yet.
Once a family has selected to work with Noah’s Ark, they will have access to a wide range of professional therapies and services for their child including everything from speech pathology to physiotherapy, educational services, occupational therapy, social work and psychology. These specialists become your child’s Key Workers and work with your family in local premises and at home if necessary. Noah’s Ark’s branch office in Victoria St, Ballarat, becomes your local hub providing you with a central point for information, workshops and family activities throughout the year.
Noah’s Ark will continue to work with you and your child until they no longer require assistance, or until the age of 8 years old, where your child will be referred up to an agency who specialise in working with older children.
Susan and the team at Noah’s Ark are always looking at how to improve their services and offer more help to local families, so if you have any feedback or would like to suggest topics for future workshops, you can get in touch with Susan directly on 0428 515 379 or visit the website for upcoming workshops https://noahsarkinc.org.au/product-category/parent-workshops