Helping children learn through early and intensive intervention
Allow me to introduce you to Jackson, a little boy with a really fabulous Mum! Jackson and his older brother Sam both have autism. Sam was diagnosed many years ago and is in school now, while Jackson received his diagnosis at the start of 2016 and attends our Little Learners early intervention program. When we first met the boys their Mum, Kristy, was searching for something more than just the standard weekly OT, speech and psychology sessions that are so often recommended for children with autism. She could see, through years of these therapies with Sam, that her boys needed more. More intensive supports, more opportunity to develop their skills, and more chances to make the lives of her whole family better in the future.
We’ve been working with Kristy and her boys for close to two years, with both Sam and Jackson receiving intervention services. This partnership is collaborative – a Mum and a team of staff, working together to make a difference and teach the boys the skills they need for life. Kristy brings to the table her perspectives on her children and what’s important in their lives, along with a clear sense of what she’s hoping they will achieve. She’s patient with the process of learning and understands that building up the skills of her boys takes time, but is worth the wait!
Jackson is four years old and spends his days at Little Learners. Little Learners is an early, intensive behavioural intervention program. It’s an approach which helps children learn new skills that are important in everyday life. The Little Learners model is the first of its kind in Australia, providing intensive, one-to-one intervention in a centre-based learning environment. Jackson attends Little Learners four days a week, with 26 hours of intervention provided for Jackson across the week.
On a typical day at Little Learners, Jackson will arrive at 9.30am and will spend time in both one-to-one and group sessions, participating in activities that have been designed specifically for Jackson to learn new skills across a wide range of developmental areas. Jackson is learning new communication and play skills, how to socialise and engage with his friends, and how to do things like getting dressed in the morning. His team are also spending lots of time helping to break down the elements of learning for him, to make sure Jackson can learn new skills without the need for one-to-one support in the future. Typically developing children learn from their environment all day long, this important skill of learning how to learn is a core feature of Little Learners intervention. The focus is always on the future and helping children to be great little learners!
Jackson’s program takes time, hard work, and a lot of commitment from Jackson’s family. But there are gains and new skills to celebrate every day. Through Little Learners and the commitment of his Mum, Jackson and his family are experiencing more of those moments to celebrate, when Jackson is achieving new milestones. He’s now fully toilet trained. He can request more than 30 different toys and activities he likes. He’s participating in a group time with other children for up to 20 minutes, where he pays attention to the teacher and copies all the group actions during songs and stories. He’s much less frustrated and able to learn new skills faster. Jackson has made 22 months’ worth of gains in his fine motor skills in one year of intervention, so he’s not just keeping up, he’s catching up to his peers in this, and many other areas. He’s gradually getting ready to enter mainstream Kinder with the skills he needs to socialise and play.
For children who participate in Little Learners, we’re striving to create more of these moments that matter. These moments are the ones that are important to families. It’s the: “He said his first words”, or “He’s finally out of nappies”, or “He didn’t cry at the dentist at all today!”, or “He can hold a spoon by himself now” moments. We’ve had many of these moments with Jackson along the way and it’s a wonderful opportunity to share his story with you. We can’t wait to see what he achieves next!
Psychologist/ Clinical Director
For more information about Little Learners, contact [email protected]