Problems pile up with denial of early intervention

Kylie Fisher’s son Jesse was on the waiting list for a northern suburbs special-needs preschool for so long that he missed the cut-off and had to begin primary school without developmental assistance.

Ms Fisher said that without access to early intervention, Jesse, who has autism, took a long time to settle into his primary school, the Northern School for Autism.

She said he ran away from school just after he started because he suffered severe separation anxiety.

Ms Fisher’s youngest child Phoebe, 5, now attends Norparrin Centre for Children with Special Needs in Mill Park – the centre her brother was unable to get into.

Ms Fisher was part of a group of Norparrin parents who met Mill Park MP Lily D’Ambrosio and Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews last week to discuss the importance of investment in early childhood intervention.

Early childhood intervention services provide support for families of children with disabilities or developmental delays in their preschool years.

In the latest round of early childhood intervention place announcements, Melbourne City Mission, which operates Norparrin, received 10 additional places from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

But Norparrin parent Sharon Carstains said further investment in services was needed in Melbourne’s outer and peri-urban suburbs.

“It’s alright for us, we just have to travel half an hour,” she said. “But if you lived further out, past Whittlesea, you’d have to do a lot of driving every week.”

Another parent, Annie Walton, agreed that the services needed further continued investment.

Norparrin manager Georda Aldersea said the centre staff were grateful for the recent boost. But she said the outer northern suburbs had a high number of school-age children and the centre would have to keep up with demand.

Mr Andrews said tailored services such as early childhood intervention “pay a dividend” in the future. “Services for very special kids are not a cost; they are an investment in their future and the future of their families.”