What is an ECI practitioner’s role in early childhood inclusion? A new graduate’s reflection

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Before starting working at EarlyEd as a speech pathologist,  I thought my role would mainly involve working one-on-one with children by either taking them aside for an hour or sitting with them and supporting them to participate in the group. I was not sure of what my role would be in relation to the childcare staff.

EarlyEd uses a ‘protocol’ in their work supporting children with developmental delay and/or disability in the early childhood settings.  Reading through the protocol, I realised our role in childcare centres was much more to support the staff than working one-on-one with the child. The protocol clearly outlines the importance of inclusion for all children, and that our role is to support the centre to include children with developmental delay and/or disability in all activities. It also highlights the importance of working with centre staff, as part of the team. Although the protocol talks about giving the childcare staff strategies, it also outlines that we are not the expert and we need to work collaboratively with them.

My first visit to a childcare centre was different in some ways to what I would have imagined. I accompanied an experienced therapist to the initial childcare visit for one of her clients. We signed in and out, asked where to leave our bags, greeted staff and introduced selves. We were able to learn about the centre – the type of centre it was, who the staff were and the experience of the staff, any additional funding they received to support the child, and the routines of the centre.

We observed the child in group time, and we talked with many of the children and saw how the staff interacted with him. We discussed observations and suggestions with the main teacher at a time that suited her. We were also able to give the centre positive feedback about what they were doing well.

This visit involved much more talking with staff and much less interacting one-on-one with the child than I had imagined. The most significant thing I saw on this visit was how the early childhood intervention staff member respected the experience of the childcare staff, and collaborated with them to develop strategies that would work for the centre, rather than offering strategies from her own knowledge and experience immediately.

In my first solo visit to a childcare centre I was able to follow the policies related to organising the visit and arriving at the centre. As a result of reading through the protocol and observing other staff on childcare visits, I prepared discussion points to talk about with the staff, rather than activities I could do with the child on the visit. During the visit, I mainly buy premarin 0.625mg online talked with the staff about what had been happening since the last visit and about any additional strategies or support I could offer them. I observed the child and interacted with him for short periods, but most of the time was spent talking with his main teacher.

I found that, because the expectation that we were there to support the staff and collaborate with them were already established, the staff were very comfortable talking with me and discussing strategies.

On subsequent initial visits to centres, I found the protocol to be a useful guide for preparing for the visit (including contacting the centre, finding out about the centre, and planning what the visit will involve), conducting the visit, and reflecting on it. I ensure I ask permission from the parents, contact the centre and speak to the relevant staff member, take a summary of the child’s goals, and find out about the centre’s operation and priorities before and during the visit.

“The EarlyEd protocol has been a useful guide for me in learning what to do when visiting a centre, but I have also had to learn that each centre is different and has different expectations, so it is necessary to be flexible.”

On my initial visit to one centre, the staff assumed I would take the child aside and play one-on-one with them. It was helpful to have knowledge of EarlyEd’s protocol and to have had experience observing other staff during the orientation phase to know how to respond to this and how to conduct the visit. I was able to explain how the visits would work, and talked with the staff about supporting them to support the child.

Rachel Knights, Speech Pathologist, EarlyEd

Rachel is a recently graduated speech pathologist who has been  working in a transdisciplinary early intervention team at EarlyEd Rosehill for a year. Since starting at EarlyEd, she has enjoyed learning more about disability and working closely with children and their families and the community activities they engage in.


The Working Together Agreement developed by ECIA NSW/ACT and a working group of key ECEC and ECI organisations is a new resource you can use and adapt to establish a working “protocol” similar to that mentioned by EarlyEd in this blog piece. EarlyEd was part of the working group that developed the Working Together Agreement and we would like to acknowledge their contribution and thank them for sharing this reflective story of how such a tool can support ECEC and ECI working relationship to the benefit of all children. Download the free Working Together Agreement here.




Emma Pierce
Emma Pierce
Transition to School / Inclusion Coordinator Emma has worked in the non-government disability sector for the last 18 years. She has developed and facilitated training and resources for parents and professionals across NSW and presented papers at national and state conferences. Emma was previously the Manager of Building Blocks® Early Intervention Service at Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect). Emma also lectures casually at Western Sydney University and works as an independent consultant to Early Childhood Intervention services. Emma is the main author of ECIA NSW’s Transition to School Resource and has worked for ECIA NSW/ACT since 2013.

1 Comment

  1. Vanna Lockwood says:

    A great reflection on the importance of setting up expectations thank you. The working together agreement is a great way to being these conversations.

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