Inclusive and Participatory Practice – a critical best practice

Disability in a Cultural Context
July 7, 2016
Some lessons I have learned from inclusion
August 5, 2016

I was fortunate to be the project officer for the write up and final consultation of The National Guidelines: Best Practice in Early Childhood Intervention which were released in April of this year. These Guidelines are now being used as a base for the planning and implementation of the NDIS ECEI approach and also the NDIS Practice Standards Early Childhood module. This is what the early childhood intervention sector has long advocated for– for us to have a strong base of evidence-based best practice consistently applied throughout Australia and doing what the Early Years Learning Framework has done for the early childhood sector. I am now working on developing a booklet on these best practices that is useful for families. This booklet will hopefully give parents the confidence that the supports and services they chose for their child and family are based on best practice in early childhood intervention.

Feedback from all the consultations during the development of the Guidelines and also national and international research, clearly found that along with family-centred practice and collaborative teamwork, inclusive and participatory practice is a fundamental best practice.

Inclusive practice recogniseNational Guidelines screenshots that every child regardless of their needs has the right to participate fully in their family and community life and have the same choices, opportunities and experiences as other children.

We know that inclusion isn’t just about a child ‘being there’ in a mainstream setting, children with disability and /or developmental delay need to be actively and meaningfully participating in child care, preschools, playgroups and schools. Attitudes, beliefs and values of everyone involved with inclusion was found to be the single greatest barrier to successful inclusion.

Research has shown that children with disability in mainstream settings do at least as well as children in specialised or segregated programs. Benefits for children participating in inclusive settings are that children with disability are more interactive in inclusive settings and have opportunities develop friendships and learn social skills (National Professional Development Centre on Inclusion, 2009; Bruder, 2010; and Case-Smith & Holland, 2009).

Kathy Cologon, an Australian researcher,  says ‘There has been a consistent lack of evidence to suggest any benefit of segregated education over time. By contrast there is a considerable body of research demonstrating the benefits of inclusive education.’ She concludes that there are a number of gaps in the literature and further ordering premarin online research is needed urgently to address these gaps.

The Guidelines provide practitioners with the opportunity to use them as a platform to translate evidence into practice. It is recognised that we need further research into topics such as inclusive, segregated settings and specialised programs and practitioners are encouraged to engage in research that could guide their practice.

As said in the Guidelines, we need to build a culture where mainstream settings are the natural context for young children with early intervention supports merged within these settings to develop inclusive communities.  The best outcomes for children with disability are obtained when mainstream settings are supported by specialist services to enable children develop the skills to participate meaningfully in everyday activities.

Therefore, it is very important to have well trained and accessible ECI practitioners to support the adults in the child’s everyday settings. Professional development programs for everyone involved with inclusion targeting inclusive and participatory practice would be a good start.


Sue Davies was the Project Officer on the National Guidelines: Best Practice in Early Childhood Intervention. Sue is a member of the ECIA NSW/ACT Board and ECIA National Council. Sue is an education and training consultant who has worked in the ECI field for over 20 years. Previously, Sue was responsible for leading an early intervention service to develop a workable model of service delivery based on family centred, transdisciplinary practice called the ‘Team Around the Child’(TAC) with a book on TAC resulting from this work. Over the past ten years, Sue has successfully run workshops across Australia. She was the Project Officer for the development of the joint position statement for the inclusion of children with disability into early childhood education and care (ECEC).



Case-Smith, J. & Holland,T. (2009). Making decisions about service delivery in early childhood programs. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 40, 416–423.

Bruder, M. B. (2010). Early childhood intervention: A promise to children and families for their future. Exceptional Children, 76 (3), 339-415.

Cologon K.  (Ed.) (2014). Inclusive Education in the Early Years: Right from the Start. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

National Professional Development Centre on Inclusion. (2009). Research synthesis points on early childhood inclusion. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute. Available at




Catalina Voroneanu
Catalina Voroneanu
Inclusion Program Coordinator

1 Comment

  1. Emma Pierce says:

    So good to now have these Guidelines to help ECIs provide services in line with best practice standards.

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