Early intervention is critical for all developmentally delayed babies and pre-school children, whether the delay is associated with a diagnosis of disability or simply late development. Early intervention has an enormous impact on the lives of developmentally delayed babies and children as it takes advantage of the early years where maximum learning takes place. In some cases early intervention can spell the difference between a delayed child having good learning outcomes or being a “special needs” child. Early intervention helps get children with disabilities ready for school. As such;
We call for the government to pay for all modifications to private dwellings that will enable people to continue as these help with all children’s development and curb consumerism.
living comfortably in their own homes if they become disabled or have a child with a disability make all parks and recreation venues accessible to people with all forms of disability, including rides in entertainment parks. Put all-abilities play equipment in all neighbourhood parks so that friends and siblings of all abilities can play together in their own neighbourhoods.
Special programs need to be developed for babies and young children who need speech therapy in languages other than English so that their therapy is being conducted in a language the children are actually learning to speak, as well as introducing some English. This can be achieved in the long term by training people who speak languages other than English as speech therapists.
In the short term English-speaking speech therapists should have paid opportunities to communicate with ethnic communities and families about their needs and learn some key words in different languages to introduce into their programs. Australia should seek child development therapists from overseas who can help migrant families to access relevant early intervention programs.
Change the name of “speech pathologists” back to “speech therapists” as the inference that people with speech problems have“pathology” is confronting and stigmatising to people using such services and to their families.
Restore funding to neighbourhood maternal and child health centres so they can resume the role they had over fifteen years ago as spontaneous drop-in centres where parents (usually mothers) could socialise and talk things over with the (usually female) nurse at any time and get referrals for babies’ problems from someone they trust. This is crucial in picking up and acting upon early signs of babies’ developmental problems and taking advantage of the early months and years of babies’ learning to ameliorate the effects of developmental delay. The current “cost effective” system of more strictly controlled appointments to measure developmental milestones at certain age levels undermines the relationship between mothers and local nurses and discourages open and timely communication from mothers - the spontaneous voicing of nagging uncertainties that a baby might have a problem.
The medical uncertainties, bureaucracies, professional and medical terminology, waiting lists and agencies and therapists that parents of developmentally delayed children have to deal with cause extra pressure.
Criteria for obtaining Carers Allowances and Carers Payments should be relaxed and the level of payment raised to enable parents to take time off work to deal with these problems. Parents should have unlimited free access to mentors or advocates to guide them through the child disability maze.
Boost funding for playgroups where parents and grandparents can get non-threatening support and information about childhood developmental issues, including playgroups based around different languages and cultures. These also enable young children who don’t go to childcare to socialise and develop their abilities.
Community education is needed amongst parents to teach them more sensitivity towards other parents who have children with disabilities and developmental delay.
Cut the delays and red tape on the Aids and Equipment funding program and give children and adults orthotics and other aids as soon as they need them.
As socialists we discourage socially competitive “baby shows” as well as sexist “beauty pageants” as a means of raising funds for people with disabilities. These competitions devalue people with disabilities by upholding physical perfection as the major criteria by which to judge the worth of human beings. Rather than benefiting people with disabilities, “baby shows” contribute to a social climate where some mothers feel pressured to keep obviously disabled or disfigured babies and young children out of sight, indoors or under pram covers, away from other parents and children and the prying eyes of the public.
This limits the social and physical development of these children and stigmatises these families. We instead advocate forums where parents can openly talk about the difficulties of raising children with disabilities and medical issues and/or on low incomes so that the real needs of all babies, children and parents can be better understood and met.
Special education and integration programs in mainstream schools and pre-schools have a lifelong impact, not only in terms of qualifications but equally important in terms of self confidence, independence, decision making, social skills and peer support. Ultimately both early intervention programs and support at school level will help people with disabilities into secure employment, develop their innate abilities and allow them to contribute fully to society.
Unfortunately, education for children with special needs is hit and miss — stringent guidelines deprive many children of much needed integration support in mainstream schools. In particular, guidelines discriminate between children with “intellectual disabilities” (associated with low IQ) and “learning disabilities” (e.g. dyslexia, high functioning autism) where children have average or above average IQ but need to learn differently. Unlike children with intellectual disabilities, children with learning disabilities have no right to a classroom integration aide in Victorian schools unless their parents pay for it. If their families cannot privately fund extra assistance it is likely that children with learning disabilities will fall through the cracks of our education system and have poor education outcomes. Also, many special schools for vision impaired and other physically disabled children have closed down, often without the provision of adequate replacement services.
Socialist Alliance candidates support;