Inclusive educational programs for children with disability

This series of 7 interactive webinars from Special Teaching and Research (STaR) outlines the delivery of quality educational programs for children with disability and developmental delays.

This webinar series has been funded through the NSW Department of Education’s Sector Development Program, that is now known as the Safety and Quality Practice Program from financial year 2023/24..

The first webinar in this series will introduce participants to the concept of early childhood inclusion for children with disabilities and developmental delays, including ethical and legal obligations and best practice in early childhood intervention. The following 3 webinars will assist participants to plan for and implement research-based Individual Learning Plans for young children with disabilities/delays in collaboration with their families and other professionals. The fifth webinar will focus on the transition to school for children with disabilities.

After each webinar participants will be invited to attend smaller, interactive follow-up webinars and to join a facilitated peer community.

Webinar 1: Inclusion in early childhood services

In this 60-minute webinar, you will be introduced to the concept of early childhood inclusion for children with disabilities and developmental delays, including ethical and legal obligations related to including children with disability or developmental delay in your early childhood education and care service. You will reflect on what participation and engagement of children with disabilities or delays can look like in practice and identify potential barriers to inclusion.

An overview of best practice in early childhood intervention will be provided, including examples of how these practices can be implemented in regular early childhood education and care settings.

At the conclusion of this webinar, you will have the knowledge to:

  • identify best-practice in inclusive early childhood education
  • describe the ethical and legal reasons for the inclusion of children with disabilities and additional needs in early childhood education and care programs.


Watch the webinar recording

Host: We'll begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today. And we pay respects to Elders past, present and emerging. So, we are STaR. STaR is an acronym, and it stands for Special Education, Teaching and Training and Research. We believe that with the right support, all people can and should learn together and that lifelong learning is a human right. We work across early years, school age and post-school settings to ensure that people with disability have access to progressive and meaningful learning. Established in 2001, we've worked with over 600 families and 300 educators across 30 inclusive early childhood services. Our presenters today are Dr Sarah Carlon and Megan Cooper. Sarah is an InSpEd- certified (Institute of Special Educators) Special Educator and the Manager of Research and Education here at STaR. She has lectured in special education at the post-grad university level and has also worked in a range of inclusive early childhood settings as an ECT (Early Childhood Teacher) and centre director. Sarah believes that early childhood educators are the key to successful inclusion and is passionate about translating early childhood-early intervention research evidence into practice. Megan is also an InSpEd certified Special Educator and is the Manager of Families and Education at STaR. In her role, she manages the programs which support children and adults with disability to have quality learning plans.

Dr Sarah Carlon: OK, welcome. This is the first in a series of webinars that we've been lucky enough to have funded through the Department of Education’s Sector Development Program. So, this one here is really an overview of what inclusion is and why we do it and an overview of best practice in early intervention. And following up from this webinar, we'll be presenting another 3 that really unpack the planning and programming cycle for having an individual plan for a child with a disability or delay in your service. So, from using observations and planning, really practical evidence-based strategies for including kids with disability, that will help you actually with any child in your service. And developing and implementing early individual learning plans will be coming up in following webinars.

Megan Cooper: Fabulous. We're very busy, aren't we? And so, overview quickly what we're going through today. What is inclusion? We're going to talk about the definition of participation and engagement. We're going to chat quickly about some of your ethical and legal obligations about enrolling, accepting and learning with children with disability or delay, including those that are not yet diagnosed. We're going to talk about the best practice in early childhood-early intervention space. We're going to leave you with some take home moments and messages and also some reflection points for you to think about and sort of take back to your service.

Sarah: So, what is inclusion? So, it's likely to be a word that you're familiar with because equity, inclusion and diversity are what underpin the National Quality Framework (NQF) that we all work under in early childhood. So ACECQA identify inclusion as an approach where diversity is celebrated. It's about all educators holding high expectations for the learning and development of all of the children that we work with, but also recognising that each child's learning path is individual and that every child will progress in different but importantly equally meaningful ways.

Megan: Excellent. So broadly, Early Childhood Australia defines inclusion to mean that every child has access to and is able to participate meaningfully in and experience positive outcomes from early childhood education and care programs. So, they acknowledge that there are several groups of children who may require or benefit from additional supports or adaptations to participate fully in and be included in your services. So, I'm sure you're all very familiar with the different groups of children that need extra support at different times of their life. There's a great list of them here. Children with disability or delay, children experiencing physical or mental health conditions. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and refugees. Gender diverse children or children from LGBTQI families. Children with complex social, emotional, and behavioural needs. Children who are gifted also fall into the category of children and that need a little bit of extra support. Children experiencing socioeconomic or geographical disadvantage. There are children that we come across who are at risk of abuse, neglect, or family violence. And there are children that may come from institutional settings or are living temporarily in residential care. We have refugee children and children visiting from hospitals and migration detention. As we know, children can experience different things in their little childhoods. And we really want to be sort of aware of that and make sure that we're sort of leaning in and giving them the best go at participating and engaging in your services. In this series of webinars, we're specifically thinking about children with disabilities and delays but a lot of what we're saying will be applicable to these other groups, that will benefit from additional support. So, drawing on this definition of inclusion, what is key is that there are 3 components: access, it’s not just enrolment or getting through the front door; participation; and engagement in your programs, which of course lead to positive outcomes for children and their families.

Sarah: Access is not only the first key component of inclusion, but it's also recognised in the National Quality Standard. Under collaborative partnerships with families and communities in element 6.2.2, we recognise that planning and reflecting on practices helps you to ensure that potential barriers to participation are addressed and that therefore, each child is going to come to a service that is inclusion ready and welcoming. So, the benchmark for quality in early childhood services includes this planning and reflecting process to make sure that potential barriers to participation are identified and addressed. What might those barriers mean? This is our first activity where we'd like you to help us build a little word cloud around what might act as a barrier to access early childhood education and care for children with a disability or delay.

Megan: I'm sure you can all think of some … beautiful, we’ve got some great ideas popping up already. What can block a child to your service? Language, knowledge, location? Absolutely. The physical environment is a very obvious one, particularly for a child with a physical disability or even a sensory impairment. Perception, educator knowledge or occupancy. There are some good ones popping up, and as usual, from the brain's trust, we will most likely agree with you on all of those things. Cost is something like we sort of mentioned. That's a big deal, and we don't want it to be a barrier to children accessing your fabulous services. Staffing. What else have we got? Expectations, staff attitude and the culture of your service. Yes, we’ve got numbers. Yes, we have got to get the balance right. Lack of support. Some people are popping up some ideas in the chat there as well. Family support. Parent knowledge. Okay. Look, undiagnosed children and parents not on board is a hot topic. It's a controversial one and something we talk about often. And over the years, I must say, we've really come to terms that some people will not ever embrace the idea that their child has a deficit and we're actually quite okay with that. Parents who are ‘in denial’ are actually living in hope and they still want the best for their child, so we've got to be really careful how we judge where a family is at in that journey, whether they're ready to face a diagnosis or not. It doesn't stop us from doing what we do well, which is accept, enjoy. Even if your service is doing the basics of belonging, being and becoming, you're doing a great job for that child and family, regardless of their label. Excellent. Sarah, did you want to add anything?

Sarah: Just seeing what's coming out a lot there, is a lot around that knowledge and skills of the educators. So great to see so many of you here with us today wanting to build that knowledge. Staff attitudes as well, is coming out a little bit in a few different, smaller worded, slightly differently in the smaller things. So that might be something we can talk about in the follow up sessions, how do we get everybody on board to understand that this is important?

Megan: Absolutely. Some great ideas there. Thank you everybody for sharing your thoughts. [Slido’s] a great way, I think, of getting everyone to participate and to know you there and for you to call out. Inclusion, as we've said, is not just about enrolling a child with a disability in your service. That's actually probably the easier part, and we will continue on to talk a bit more about the legalities of that. But, for a child to be included in a way that is not tokenistic, they really need to participate in the routines and activities of your early learning service. So, in other words, we want to see that the child is engaged, and we can measure that child's engagement by looking at the amount of time that they spend interacting with their environment, which includes adults, the other children, their peers, materials and equipment like books, toys, and other activities. So, when we consider engagement, we're looking for a child to be interacting in a way that's appropriate for their ability, but also age appropriate and appropriate to your particular service and setting, as opposed to at home or in a clinical setting. And of course, we will expand more on that as we continue.

Sarah: Now, we have a little case study here that we'd like to introduce you to: Freddy. So Freddy is a little guy that's been at a service for a few weeks, and we're going to have a listen to his educators just describe his typical day at his early learning service. And we would like you to have a think, because we have a Slido quiz afterwards, where we'd like you to think about is Freddy participating and engaging within the early childhood setting? So having a think about what Megan said there, so participating and engaging. We're looking at interactions with adults, with his peers and with the materials and activities within the service there, and is he being included? Would you classify this as inclusion?

Video audio: Freddy started at the centre in our preschool room a couple of weeks ago. He comes 2 days per week from 10 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon when we have approved funding for an additional educator. This means that the educator can stay with him and encourage him to play with manipulative toys to target his fine motor development. We borrowed a few of these toys from the nursery room. The support educator also feeds him and changes him before rest time. During rest time when the other children are on their beds resting or engaged in quiet activities at the tables, Freddy is supported to do exercises on the floor with some of his therapy equipment. The main group times are held each day at 9:30 and 2:30 when Freddy is not at the centre, so his support educator doesn't need to worry about moving him in and out of his chair to be on the mat at those times.

Sarah: OK, so Jen will pull up the Slido page for us. So, there's 2 little questions to answer there.

Megan: That's right. The first question, is this child Freddy participating and engaging with the setting?

Sarah: There we go, 50/50.

Megan: Oh, interesting. I love watching this, the live answers come in. So, I would say Freddy is very well cared for and obviously he's enjoyed, and his therapy goals are included. But in terms of the definition that he's really working with the other adults and peers and children in a regular way, in your routine, regular routines and activities, I would argue that it's, that he's not. He's doing some things, he's doing a one-on-one program, but in terms of really thinking about the broader definition of inclusion, I would question that. What do you think, Sarah?

Sarah: Yeah, and what we'd hope to see is, we did, I did notice that the educators mentioned that he'd been coming for a couple of weeks, that perhaps this level of support and one-on-one attention would potentially be just while he's settling in, and that pretty soon we're going to start to see him being moved towards sitting with the other kids. I couldn't see any reason for him not to be with the other children. For example, in that quiet time, if he's not sleeping and they’re doing quiet activities at the table, why couldn't Freddy be over at the table with his peers, as opposed to pulled aside and onto the floor at that time? There's lots of opportunities for him to learn alongside his peers, and that's the whole reason that he's there, you'd assume, at the early learning service rather than being somewhere else.

Megan: The second question was, is he being included? Of course, the 2 things are quite related, aren't they, because they're part of the same definition. So no, I think we would, I would, definitely agree with you there. I don’t think he's being included. Like I said, good care, he's doing one-on-one program. They're not exploiting this fabulous service and setting that you offer a child with this disability to be included in really regular kids’ stuff. We want Freddy to be with all the other 2- or 3-year-olds, doing what they're doing, not isolated or pulled aside. So, I would agree with the big part of the group there. Freddy probably could be included a little bit better. So, we've got another case study here, and this is our little friend Grace, who we worked with for a few years in her early childhood service, and as you watch Grace's educators talk about her and how she worked in the room, have a think about the same questions. Is she participating and engaging in this setting? And do you think she's being included? Let's have a look at Grace.

Video audio: When Grace first started at our centre, she was very active and curious, she would flit from activity to activity. We worked with her parents to develop an individual learning plan, targeting increased engagement in activities throughout the day and increased independence at the centre. As we supported Grace to follow the room routine and stay longer at different learning experiences – first with the educators and also with the support of her peers – we saw friendship start to develop. She still doesn't stay long at each activity, but we are supporting her to extend that amount of time each day. We have always had the expectation that Grace will join in with her peers, whether that's in independent play, small group experiences, larger group times or mealtimes. This doesn't mean that she can concentrate for as long as some of her peers, but it does mean that she is supported to engage for as long as she is able to each day.

Megan: So, looking at Grace's experience, is she participating and engaging within the setting? And is she being included? So, do you think that Grace is participating and engaging, according to the definition? Beautiful. I completely agree with you. Well done. And is this inclusion? Is she being included? By definition, should be the same number. Absolutely, and you can hear her educator say it's not that it's 100% perfect, not at all. To the best of her ability to where Grace is up to at the moment, we have included her in the best way that we can with the least support possible. We don't want someone hovering. It's not, Grace's inclusion isn't based on her having an extra person in that room. And we actually use Grace a lot in the next webinar, don't we Sarah, when we talk about collecting data and things, we talk a lot more about how we use that support.

Sarah: But now, one more Slido. So that was a real overview of what inclusion is, and we looked ourselves at that sort of thing: Is this really inclusion or not? But what's the big deal about inclusion? It's such a buzz word at the moment, you hear ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ sort of broadly across society. But why is it important to include children with disabilities or delays in early childhood education and care services? So, we're going to build one of those beautiful word clouds again.

Megan: Excellent. At STaR, we work across the sectors, we work across the lifespan and our observation is that the early childhood sector does this incredibly well. You are very natural ‘inclusionisters’, I must say, and it's very obvious to you why it’s important, that we have a mix of variety of children in our services. It's good for individual children. It's good for the other children attending the service and I can see, I loved that ‘social justice’ was the first thing to pop up. It's a human right, isn't it? For a family, whatever they are going through, to be able to enrol in a local early childhood setting. Belonging – this is, this talks straight to your curriculum and your framework, I'd say. So, there's no trick in this question, I know that you know the answers. So social acceptance, empathy. Every child has the right relationships, connection. It's about being just a human, isn't it?

Sarah: Universal rights of the child.

Megan: Yeah, enjoy the normal and good things in life that every other child has access to, which is a theory that we use to guide us as we work with people with disability across the lifespan. And it isn't quite as easy for people as they move through the educational sectors or age groups. Respectful relationship building, rights of the child, we belong, we have a place, learning about difference. I think it's incredibly important for regularly developing children to have access, to play alongside, to learn from our children that have differences, delays, neurological differences. Because this is real life, we represent, in your services, should represent the diversity of a regular community.

Sarah: Some similar themes coming through in the chat there as well, on the rights of the child and dignity, understanding, acceptance. Yeah, beautiful. And one of the things that drive us here at STaR is that we acknowledge it's very difficult for families with children with disabilities to get back to work, to study or to do anything normal, so when we say we want the good things in life or the normal, the regular, we want a regular life, we want that for the families as well. So, to be able to study or go to work and when a child can access an early childhood service that’s willing to work with them, that allows families to get on with a regular life. Moving along, so we'd like to introduce you to one of our parents, speaking of and funny, I was thinking of Michelle when I was saying that she went back to some fulltime study when the children went to school. This is our friend Michelle, she's a parent of 2 children that we worked with in a regular local service here. This video... Warning, this video is long. It is emotive. But there's so many important messages. Enjoy.

Video audio: Hi, my name is Michelle, and I have 9-year-old twin girls named Emily and Ruby. They were diagnosed at birth of having Velocardiofacial syndrome. Now, we knew nothing about this and having 2 girls that were born prematurely, also then with all these extra added medical things are piled on top with operations, appointments etcetera, threw us into kind of a bit of a whirlwind and a surreal experience. This was to be our new normal. As the girls grew older, Ruby stayed in hospital for 5 months and was eventually able to come home. However, unfortunately, she was tube fed through a gastrostomy button. This posed a lot of questions and problems for their father and I as to how are they going to grow up in a typical environment that children do? Matt worked full time, I was the girl's full-time carer, and I wanted to at least try to go back to work or study just something like that and even have some respite. So, when the option of childcare came up, or when the discussion of childcare came up, we were quite confused as to how this would work because the girls couldn't talk, they struggled a lot with any sort of social interaction and comprehension of things. They were severely delayed. How, how are we going to make this work? How can they do that? What, what place could possibly take on these children? It wasn't until we were put in touch with the STaR Association that it began to become a little bit more realistic for us, that the girls would be going to be able to have a normal type of experience in their early childhood. Inclusion is possible, and inclusion is vital in these girls’ lives growing up, and it should start now. The very basics should start now and if it weren't for these girls being able to go to their local childcare centre and being included the way that they were, I could say without a doubt they wouldn't be where they are today. They learnt to socialise, they made friends, the educators taught them things that I didn't think possible. The educators were able to learn to be able to tube feed Ruby and even helped her to start to eat on her own, and that was something that I never thought was possible. It paved the way for them to be able to transition into a mainstream primary school. They were lucky enough to be able to transition into a mainstream primary school in a Support Unit, but those skills learnt then, that opportunity given to them then, in the early education days, when they were younger at childcare, at their local childcare centre, it paved the way for them in the future. It's given them an opportunity that a lot of other children don't get, and it showed them that they can be what they want. They can work hard and strive to be able to communicate with children, to develop friendships, to develop relationships with educators, and even being in an environment surrounded by children that are neurotypical, watching those behaviours and them learning and learning from watching those behaviours, mimicking those behaviours. It helped in ways that we couldn't, we could never provide for them. There's only so much we could do for them at home. This was an opportunity that I feel is necessary for any child that is not neurotypical, that to be included. Without that inclusion, who knows where they would have been, who knows how far back their development and growth would be at the moment? And again, I could say without a doubt they wouldn't be where they are today, and they wouldn't have learned those skills early on that have helped them pave the way through primary school to where they are now. I mean, personally, for as a parent, watching the girls develop these relationships and friendships with children, when they couldn't talk, they couldn't communicate, they found ways to communicate and that was something I always worried as a parent, like will they be able to communicate and make friends? How are other children going to going to understand them? How are other children going to play with them? And want to play with them? And this showed me that that was possible. That there are different ways that children can play together and communicate together without words. They can use their signs, they can use just this understanding that I can’t even grasp the concept of, they just understood each other, and that gave us hope for the future that that was possible. And the interaction, that interaction with the teachers, the educators and how the educator’s were able to understand their needs and meet their needs and teach them things that, again, I didn't think was possible. It just showed that there was so much more to these girls and when given the opportunity, they are going to grow. It… This is why it is so important for the children with disabilities to be given these opportunities as early as possible, starting with early education, starting with childcare, daycare, give them that extra bit of confidence, give the families confidence, give everyone confidence that going into school they can do this and they can do this on their own, but they can also do it with help.

Sarah: There you go, like I said, long and emotive and this is just the example of one family. There's many, many families across New South Wales that have similar stories to Michelle. So, we've heard about the impact of inclusion from a parent's point of view but stepping back from that and viewing it as early childhood professionals, which you all are, why is inclusion so important? As if that's not enough to hear from Michelle, we’ll sort of have another think about it. So, we spoke at the start of this webinar when we defined inclusion, about how it's a guiding principle of the National Quality Framework. It's also part of your Code of Ethics. So most of you will be familiar, I hope, with the Early Childhood Code of Ethics. And it states within that Code that in relation to children, you're going to create and maintain safe, healthy and inclusive environments that support children's agency and enhance their learning, and that's for every child across your service and you're also going to ensure that children are not discriminated against on the basis of several things, but including their ability. So that's just a part of how it all ties together. Further, on inclusion and ethics in 2012, Early Childhood Australia, who most of you probably know as your peak body for early childhood in Australia, and Early Childhood Early Intervention Australia, who were the peak body for early intervention, put out a statement about why inclusion specifically for children with disability is important within early childhood education and care programs. Now their position, which still stands today, was that every child was entitled to access and participate in early childhood education and care. The position statement here also recognises that early childhood services and educators needed to be supported and resourced appropriately to enable them to fully include children with disability in a way that leads to those high-quality outcomes for all children. So, it's not that we're saying you just need to enrol every child that comes to your service and enrolling them is done, that's inclusion. You do need to support them and the fact that you're here today is one way that you can upskill and sort of include to be able to include children with disability.

Megan: Also, it's the law. Here we have the Disability Discrimination Act that says very clearly, it's an Act that's passed by the Parliament of Australia that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, education, accommodation and of course your services also. And discrimination is defined to include failing to make reasonable adjustments for a person and complaints can be made under the Australian Human Rights Commission. Just so you're aware that it's also a really sort of serious legal issue.

Sarah: It is, and more specifically, when we look at education, the Disability Standards for Education 2005 really spell out what it means as an education service. So the standards cover 5 areas of a child's educational experience: their enrolment, participation, access to the curriculum, student support, and harassment and victimisation. So these standards support the Disability Discrimination Act as a framework to ensure that children can access, be involved in, and benefit from their education on the same basis as their peers.

Megan: In summary, because we’ve moved on, it's ethical, as you pointed out, it's social justice, it's supported by our right to be human, it is the right thing to do, and also, it's the law.

Sarah: So, reflecting on why we include we’d now like you to sort of stand back and consider a child coming to enrol in your service and any potential reasons for not enrolling or including a child with a disability. So, we've got sort of a few to select from there. You can select as many or as few as you like. Just having a think about would any of these reasons justify not including a child with a disability in your education, early childhood education and care setting?

Megan: Nice, now we're never saying that these things aren't tricky, that you might have lack of training, that you might not have experienced educators, you might not have great ratios, and funding can be tricky. We're not saying they're not tricky, but they're actually not reasons to not include children, including the lack of nursing medical experience. I understand that's confronting, but I think what I always remember is this mother and father standing in front of us also likely don't have medical training, but they have learned to peg feed their child. And like you heard from Michelle, we taught, you know, we supported that team to get the hang of that and it was just simply by collaborating with people from hospital, nurses that came out to show us, we made some photos and social stories just to support people learning that, and once the team learned that skill, it was very you know, straightforward sort of activities. So, correct answer – none of the above.

Sarah: OK, so thinking about why inclusion is important. We've sort of got to that now that we're expected to include within our early learning services, but what does best practice in early childhood intervention or inclusion look like? Well in 2012, Early Childhood Intervention Australia released guidelines for all professionals working with young children with disabilities or delays, and that includes early childhood educators. So, I know some of the times it can be easy for us to sort of think of ourselves as, ‘I'm just an educator, I'm not an interventionist’. Now we view ourselves, you might not see yourself as an intervention professional, but you are. You are highly skilled professionals with sound knowledge of child development. So, we really want to build in this webinar series on your confidence to be able to see yourselves as important people within this landscape. Now, this is one of those things is looking at these 8 practices that sit across 4 quality areas and how you can embed them into your daily work with children and families. As we move through and look at these practices in a little more detail, you'll actually see how closely they align with the NQF and with the EYLF (Early Years Learning Framework), and how a lot of this is what you're what you're doing anyway.

Megan: There are 4 quality areas with 2 key best practices in each of them, and in this final section of the webinar, we are going to provide a little bit more detail about each of them, but looking across these quality areas and practices, they probably sound very familiar to you, as they should. We'll expand on this as we go.

Sarah: They should because they relate directly to the principles and practices of the EYLF. So, we will just have a little look at each quality area now. So, Quality Area 1. Family encompasses family centred, strengths-based and culturally responsive practices. Now those relate directly to the EYLF principles of partnership and respect for diversity and to the EYLF practices of adopting holistic approaches, being responsive to children, and valuing the cultural and social context of the children and their families. The second Quality Area is ‘Inclusion,’ which is inclusive and participatory practice and engaging children in natural environments. Now that relates directly to the principles of high expectations and equity, and respect for diversity, and the EYLF practices of adopting holistic approaches, being responsive to children and planning and implementing learning throughout the day. Quality Area 3 is Teamwork, including collaborative teamwork, practice and capacity building practice again – those principles that directly related to the high expectations and equity, and ongoing learning and reflective practice. And the EYLF practices of adopting holistic approaches, valuing the cultural and social context of the children and their families, and providing for continuity in experiences in enabling children to have a successful transition. And the last Quality Area is Universal Principles, which includes evidence-based standards and accountability and practice, and an outcomes-based approach. Again, linking there to our high expectations and equal equity, and our ongoing learning and reflective practice, and the practices of assessing and monitoring children's learning to inform provision, and to support children in achieving their learning outcomes. So, what does this mean though? We're going to break each of those down now.

Megan: Family centred. So, a strength-based, family-centred approach is all about early intervention professionals, including yourselves, recognising that to support a child, you can't just work with a child in isolation. We have to support the family and build on their strengths. This is my favourite point about the strengths-based focus for our children, also the strengths-based focus for our families. So as Sarah said, we're going to unpack that.

Sarah: So, thinking about how you can apply this principle within your services, it's something that you do really well. So, it's a foundation of the National Quality Framework. So, you look at area 6 and then specifically standard 6.1, that’s supportive relationships with families, you aim to build respectful relationships with families. You’re constantly working towards building and maintaining supportive relationships with all of your families to build on their strengths and the strengths of the family to support their child, and that applies to any child with a delay or disability within your service as well.

Megan: And another segue, you do this incredibly well. Your sector, again, when we move through the life span, this gets really hard to do and I think you realise that you do so naturally and so well, so bravo to all of you. The next practice is culturally responsive practice, which is about providing culturally inclusive and safe environments where all families are supported. And professionals need to be aware and respectful of diversity and early intervention or early education services need to be flexible and responsive in the ways that they work with each family. Again, something you do incredibly well, and I know your whole sector is always trying to improve on that work.

Sarah: Yeah, and again the NQF supports this key best practice. Element 6.1.2 states that parent views are respected, but what does that look like within an early childhood service in practice? So, your learning program should reflect the cultures of the children and families within your community. This first picture here, we can see Uncle Ted teaching the children here at his local service about culture. You might provide information to the community more broadly through displays and information here, or in newsletters that you share with your families, about the different cultural, important cultural days or cultural practices within your community. We might acknowledge when working in a responsive way that the family may be more than just one or 2 parents. It might be appropriate to include grandparents, uncles, or aunts or even siblings in discussions about children's developmental needs and then also providing a translator might be really important, or written information in community languages to support communication.

Megan: It's something I know you have ready, especially when you're going through A&R and things, sort of having all that up to date and reviewed. So inclusive and participatory practice recognises that all children have the right to participate in their families and their communities and obviously your settings, your early childhood services, are young people's communities. All children have the right to feel accepted and to belong, but this does not necessarily happen on its own for children with disability or delay. They need our support, and these children often need additional support to enable them to engage and participate meaningfully across environments, including your settings and these webinars will continue on to drill down into the detail of that. How do we see how our children are engaging and participating? How do we gather that information? And then how do we create a plan to support the improvement in those skills?

Sarah: So that all children have the right to feel accepted and belong is really the core component of the EYLF. That's one of the main reasons you're doing what you're doing. So, just a little quote there, just from one section of the EYLF you can see how much that belonging is drawn out.

Megan: So, what does this inclusive and participatory practice look like in your services? So, we've got a couple of images here of our friends Grace and Freddy. It can look like our children engaging in activities that are alongside their peers. Most importantly, when in doubt, make sure they're around another peer and help them to connect, and he we've got the directors on the floor. She's not the centre of the, she's not the rock star of this scene, it's actually she's supporting Grace to connect with her peer and I'm sure you’ll come across children like Grace that are particularly interested in their peers, and you'll come across some children that are not enjoying peers because they haven't really learned how to do that yet. That's where they need support, but we need to do that in really regular activities to connect the children. And Freddy, on the other hand, it's not that he's not doing some work here, but they haven't got the most out of the environment that they're in. You'll notice that his adult is in front of him. It's very one-onone. He doesn't have other peers and it's certainly not an age-appropriate activity. We want Freddy to be doing what the other 3-year-olds are doing. Oh, can I just say, sorry that was the other note that we were going to say. There are times, certainly as Special Educators, that we might work one-on-one with the child. That's to teach them an explicit or discrete skill so that then they can get back in with their group and to employ that new skill in their engagements with other peers, but it certainly not what's happening for the whole of the day. There might be little snippets of time that we sit and teach a child how to play an activity or use something, so then we can integrate that with some the other, the other kids.

Sarah: OK, so the next practice is engaging the child in natural environment. So, we want to promote the child's participation through engagement in the daily routines within the natural learning environments. And we've sort of already touched on it several times already today, but your early childhood education and care setting is one of the key learning environments, natural environments, of young children.

Megan: So, in your environment, this is, this is really straightforward. There are so many natural routines and activities and sequences and procedures that you do during the day that you can provide opportunity for a child to be as independent as possible. So we've got, for example, Zac in the on the left – he has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. He was very driven to do things independently and don’t underestimate children's sense of agency and pride when they can do things on their own. All kids go, “I can do it by myself.” I love it when it's really driven by the child, and Zac definitely told us it was time for him to get in the bathrooms and do this on his own. And then we've got Maddie in the photo next to it. She loves painting, classic little girl who loves her arts and crafts and all the rest of it, and there's no way that she wasn't going to be included with her peers. She didn't want to sit with that teacher and do that one-on-one. She really wanted to hang out with her and her peers and engage and chat with them as she worked, and she's got like a very simple chair on the ground. We've just lowered the table so that all the kids can access that at the same level. And again, we've got one of our educators up the top there helping a little Zac, again, pop his shoes on. This is something, “OK, Koala Room, put your shoes on let's go back inside.” Or outside. Instead of doing that to him, we've got the educator there just scrunching the socks, popping them over the toe, assisting Zac to get 2 hands and pull the rest up by himself. All of these are learning opportunities. So we're developing children's skills, but also we're increasing their engagement their sense of self, their independence, their agency, which is great. And then the bottom there we’ve got little Ruby who was really chuffed to eat by herself, even, she was sort of eating on her own before she was talking, wasn't she, Sarah? And she was sick of this tube, and she wasn't into the milk in her tummy anymore, she was really keen to start trying that food. So, we didn't do that one-on- one. We did it at those natural mealtimes, and of course she had some adaptation. She wasn't eating the regular food, she was eating a puree, but we did it at those regular natural times. So, really easy for you to embed this sort of learning within what you'd ordinarily do.

Sarah: Okay, collaborative teamwork practice, that's our fifth key best practice. Now this recognises the importance of the team around the child, and you're an important component of that team for any child that comes to your service. So, the families and professionals need to work collaboratively. We need to work together, and communication and sharing of information, knowledge and skills are key. Again, the collaboration shouldn't be a foreign concept to you because again, it ties directly back to your NQF in Quality Area 6 when you look at access and participation, effective partnerships support children's access, inclusion and participation in the program. So, what might this look like in practice? Firstly, you should be sharing the objectives or goals that you're working towards for a child and the strategies that you're using as written in the Individual Learning Plan with the whole team of staff working with the child, not just with that one educator who has that real passion and has connected with this child and family and loves spending every moment with them. I'm sure we've got several of you here today, not just you. Your job is to share that with the rest of the team so this child can be supported and again, we unpack this in the webinars coming going forward, how you might do that. You also need to collaborate with external professionals or therapists regarding the strategies to include in the child's Individual Learning Plan. You might, you might, talk to them about how to set up the physical learning environment to enable access to learning experiences. These people have a lot of knowledge that they might be able to share with you, and importantly, sharing your own professional expertise with the child's family and with other professionals that come, by advocating that that child is in your learning environment to learn, is really, really important. Providing teaching and learning experiences that involve skill development and learning through play so that real focus on the educational outcomes as opposed to therapeutic outcomes because the children are coming to you, really importantly, to be part of an educational environment, have that experience, just like their peers.

Megan: That's right. So looking at these, and this is really how STaR works, isn't it, Sarah? It will be no surprise to you that those who spend the most time with the child, with disability or delay, have the greatest, can have the greatest impact on the child's learning and development. The other thing that we know that best practice, and that is why you're our key, you're our key people in making a difference for children, is we need to build the capacity of the child and but almost more importantly, the people around the child. So we know that families that are upskilled, resilient, able to advocate for their child and professionals like yourselves, educators who have the information that they need, the confidence, when we've got those parties around the child, well supported, that by default the child has better outcomes. But it's about information sharing. Coaching and collaborative teamwork can be used to build the skills, knowledge, and abilities of those who work most closely with the child and I'm sure we go on to the next slide… Sorry Sarah.

Sarah: And again, how does, what does it actually look like within practice in an early childhood setting? Well, here you can see a Special Educator visiting a service, they’re sitting down alongside the children and the early childhood educator. So, when other professionals visit your service, they should appreciate the importance of including you as early childhood educators in what they're doing. Because you're the ones who spend most of the time with the child throughout the day, you'll have the most opportunities to use these strategies that they're showing and working on with the children to support the children's learning and skill development throughout the day. You're also the experts on child development and what the child is like within your learning environment, and it's important for you to also share your knowledge with the visiting professional – what the child can do, what supports the child within your environment, strategies that you've used that have worked. So, capacity building practice does not look like what's happening in these photos. If that's what's happening all of the time, that the professional comes to work or that one particular educator works with the child. So it's not about working one-on-one for the whole session. As Megan mentioned earlier, there is a place for having small amounts of time where you're working one-on-one with a child. Just think about any child within your service and their individual needs, and how you might spend a small amount of time with any child in your service throughout the day. It's the same. It might be a little bit more time if a child's working on a particular skill, if they’re delayed in a particular area, but it shouldn't be the only thing that's happening. So really, really important there is that information sharing.

Megan: Absolutely. So the next 2 key practices, best practices, relate to universal principles that support early intervention practitioners to implement all other practices. So, the seventh is an evidence based standard and accountability in practice. So, it recognises that you need people with appropriate qualifications and expertise. The principle also states that early intervention practitioners need to use intervention strategies that are grounded in research evidence, and we've spoken a little bit about a few of them today in terms of using peers to support learning and embedding early learning opportunities into daily routines. We even talked about first, then at the very beginning of the webinar, but other strategies include breaking tasks or processes down into smaller steps and using visual supports. And in webinar 3, we're going to have a whole thing on exactly this, so webinar 3 is a great one to get along to for any practitioner, any educator to revisit or learn for the first time, all the strategies that we know have strong evidence base, and you'll be very excited to know, a spoiler, that you're already using quite a lot of them. Finally, there we should work to standards based on these key best practices to ensure that we are accountable and that we strive for continuous improvement and high quality.

Sarah: OK so again, in practice the NQF supports standards and accountability in your everyday practice. So, the National Regulations and the Act recognise that you need people with appropriate qualifications and expertise working within your services. The National Quality Standards and the Assessment and Rating system ensure that you're accountable, and you're constantly striving for high quality and continuous improvement. Ad finally, you can easily embed, as Megan just mentioned, evidence-based early intervention practices into your daily work with children with disability and delay. So here, just a little sort of sneak peek for the sorts of things we'll be talking about in that upcoming webinar, the things like using peers when we're teaching a new skill. So, teaching a child turn taking skills, we’re actually going to use their peers around them to support that learning experience.

Megan: That's it. So, number 8 Outcome-based approach. So a quick overview, we need to focus on outcomes that parents want for their child and family, outcomes that we choose should be focused on meaningful participation. The trick here is we need to be able to measure those outcomes and evaluate them, and that is webinar 2. That's right. Putting it all together in a webinar 4. Professionals guide the families by sharing their expertise and knowledge, and they identify skills needed to achieve the outcomes. So the point there is again, we're working together to make sure everyone is satisfied, family have their ideas. We want to make sure it's focusing on meaningful participation, and also, it's guided by you and what you need for your day, and for the whole group to run smoothly. So, to expand on the next slide in practice, that key indicator for successful inclusion in the end is those outcomes. So we've done the enrolment child's participating and engaging, and now we have outcomes, so we want to see children make progress. That can only be achieved by first allowing, sorry going backwards, the child to be engaged and enrolled. So together with the family we're working towards specific goals and objectives through those participation and engagement in your early learning program, and in terms of accountability, it's important that we measure, record and push that progress towards goals, so that we can show the outcome of the work that you've done, and the gains that the child's made. And we want to share that, of course, with the family to show them what a great job you've done and how far that child's come, and, like I said, we will unpack all of that in the webinars following.

Sarah: Now that was a lot to take in when we think about those 8 key best practices, but we're hoping that you actually see that it's not this whole other system that you need to learn. A lot of what's great for supporting young children with disability and delay broadly, is things that you can do quite easily and are already doing within your early childhood services. So now we want you to just reflect on the 8 best practices and what do you think you do best? So if you select 3 or 4, do we suggest?

Megan: 3.

Sarah: You can select up to 3 of these practices that you think that you and potentially the team around you, that you're working with, are doing really well.

Megan: So, what of those 8 key practices? And for those of you watching the recording, have a think about what it is that you do well already. Yes, excellent. As we suspect, I do think your sector in general are very good at the family centred and the strengths-based practice. I would agree that it's something that a lot of you do very well naturally, and it's something you're driven to do well. I think when we're working with little kids, it makes sense, doesn't it? We need to work with their families. The other thing is engaging in the child in natural environments, exploiting the beautiful service and setting that you've got to encourage children to work in within that environment. Fabulous.

Sarah: We want you to reflect now on what, which out of those practices do you think you could do better? What do you want to really hone in in terms of your skills? Learn a little bit more about? What do you think you could do better? It might be also good for you to reflect on in your, in your reflective time with your teams as part of that A&R process, it might be something that you sort of bring up in terms of that critical reflection on what are your practices at the moment? What do you, what would you like to potentially change or improve on? So capacity building practice, I'm wondering, and again we’ll unpack this a little bit in the follow-ups and maybe the Facebook group, but I'm wondering if there's a few of you here that sort of think, “Well, I'm the go-to inclusion person in my service and I'm not sharing. Or maybe there's some of you here that are thinking, “We have lots of external people coming into our service, and they're not really sharing their knowledge with me and respecting me and having that 2-way relationship.” The evidence base and standards, accountability if you do come along to this series of webinars, the next few really do unpack how we can build a system that helps you to be accountable and, you know, have evidence-based practices in terms of the strategies that you're using.

Megan: Absolutely. I kind of like that people are thinking about that capacity building practice because, as Sarah said, we're usually talking to the champions of inclusion, we just need to delegate and make sure we're sharing knowledge and information sharing. Really important. An important thing to insist on for the people that are visiting your centres.

Sarah: So we'd like to leave you, we always leave you with some take-home messages, and at this point I usually say if they are the only things from this webinar that you remember, I think probably one of the main things you'll remember is Michelle's video, but if these messages are the only ones, we'd be happy for you to go away with this. So, access is only the first step. Enrolling a child in your service is only the first step. Successful inclusion involves meaningful participation that will lead to positive outcomes for that child and family. Inclusion of children with disabilities and delays is not only a legal and ethical obligation – it also changes lives. So just think about Michelle's story, and as I said, that's one story of one parent. There are parents like that all across New South Wales, and families whose lives have been changed the way that they view their children, and their capacity for learning has been changed due to the work of early childhood educators like yourselves. And the last thing we want you to remember is that many of the identified best practices in early childhood early intervention are actually what early childhood educators already do well as part of your regular work in regular early childhood services.

Megan: I hope that's a relief to a lot of you. Like the whole point of this is this is not, I was thinking as you were talking, Sarah, about access. You can see if a child cannot enrol, they’re stuck. They don't get any of that good stuff. They don't get to belong and learn. And be beside their peers. And they don't get to make good progress in their skill development. Yeah, look, it's a really exciting, a really exciting space. So, let's have a look at reflection points. These are things that you can think about with your team and hopefully that you can bring back to the follow-up sessions, because we really have some gutsy and fun conversations off-air, off-screen, unrecorded. Have a think about how do you respond when a parent tells you that their child has a disability? So, we're going back to access. How do we get a child to be enrolled? So, when a family rocks up and goes, “And by the way, this is Tommy and he's great at A, B and C. And we do X, Y, or Z. He also has autism.” So how do you, think about how not just you, but the lady at the front desk or anyone in your team might respond to that? So, we need to get that right. This is something that we do here at STaR. We are all trained if anyone picks up that phone how to respond. What language do you use when you're talking about disabilities and developmental delays? This is very important to get this right, to be sensitive, kind and give everybody the dignity they deserve. And if a child with a disability started at your service tomorrow, would you know how to start accessing support? Thank you, everyone.

Webinar 2: Early childhood inclusion Step 1 – Observations and planning for inclusion

In this 90-minute webinar you will be guided through the process of taking observations that will assist you in planning for the inclusion of a child or children with disabilities or developmental delay within your early childhood service. An overview of the planning cycle will be provided, along with an overview of different types of observations and their purposes. Case studies will demonstrate how different types of data collection can be used to inform planning.

At the conclusion of this webinar, you will have the knowledge to:

  • record objective observations to support conversations with families about their child’s development
  • record observations that demonstrate frequency, intensity and duration of educational supports required.


Watch the webinar recording

Dr Sarah Carlon: Welcome to Early Childhood Inclusion Step 1: Observations and Planning for Inclusion.

Megan Cooper: Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us. Let's start. I'd like to start in the spirit of reconciliation, STaR acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. And we pay our respects to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

Sarah: Who are we? STaR is an acronym. It stands for Special Education, Teaching and Training and Research. We believe that with the right support, all people can and should learn together. That lifelong learning is a human right. We work across early years, school-aged and post-school settings to ensure that people with disabilities have access to progressive and meaningful learning. Established in 2001, we've worked with over 600 families and 300 educators across more than 30 inclusive early childhood services.

Megan: Yes, it's a lot, isn't it? I'm going to introduce Sarah to you, there's just the 2 of us today. Sarah is an InSpEd-certified Special Educator and the Manager of Research and Education here at STaR. She's lectured in special education at the postgraduate university level and has also worked in a range of inclusive early childhood settings as an ECT (Early Childhood Teacher) and centre director. And Sarah believes that early childhood educators, yourselves, really are the key to successful inclusion, and she's passionate about translating that ‘early childhood-early intervention’ research evidence into your daily practice.

Sarah: And we're joined by Megan Cooper. So, Megan is also an InSpEd-certified Special Educator and is the manager of Families and Education here at STaR. In her role, she manages programs which support the children and adults with disabilities to have quality learning plans. Just a little note about where we are in this series of webinars. We developed a series of webinars to support inclusive education in early childhood settings, and this is the second in a series of 4 webinars that really focus on why we include children with disability or delay, in case you needed to be convinced or understand why, and what inclusion, real inclusion actually looks like. And then how do we get there? So, from that sort of looking at the vision of what inclusion looks like, then how do we do it through observations and planning for inclusion. We're going to use those observations alongside strategies to support inclusion, so evidence-based teaching strategies that you can use on the floor. And then in our final webinar, Webinar 4, we'll look at that third step in terms of developing and implementing Individual Learning Plans. And there are also another 3 webinars specific to different people within early year settings. We have one really focusing on that transition to school for those working with preschool-aged children, how you can best support transition to school for children with disability or developmental delay. One for family day care educators and one specific for those educators working in school-aged services, the outside of school hours care services. So, keep your eyes out for those as well.

Megan: Yeah, a little bit of everything. It's been really fun creating this content actually. So, we'll just do this overview of what we will work through today. Firstly, the assessment and planning cycle which I'm sure you're all familiar with, types of observation and different kinds of data collection. We are going to look through recording observations, ways to do that and the data collection that informs our planning. We will finish up with some take home messages and also reflection points for you to go away, think about, work through, individually or with your team. So we will start here. Like I said, early childhood educators are very familiar with this assessment of planning cycle. It is an expectation within the NQS (National Quality Standards) that each child's learning and development is assessed or evaluated as a part of that ongoing cycle of observation. We analyse the learning, we document, plan, and we also look at implementation and reflection, a normal part of what you do, which fits beautifully with the way that we work.

Sarah: We're now going to have a look at that assessment and planning cycle in a little bit more depth. It's important to remember that it's an ongoing process that's used by educators with the support from the educational leader within your service and in partnership with families and other professionals. And it's used to design programs that enhance and extend each child's learning and development, which is really what we are here to do day in, day out in any early childhood service. It involves gathering and analysing information as evidence of what children know, what they can do and what they understand. So, therefore, it links directly to our EYLF (Early Years Learning Framework). Now we'll have a little look at each of the components of the assessment and planning cycle now.

Megan: Now we'll start number one, with observing and collecting information. This occurs by documenting observations of a child in your environment, but information is also gathered from the family and other data sources like developmental reports. And that provides the educator with information about each child's knowledge, their strengths, their ideas, their culture and background, their abilities and their interests.

Sarah: So, then what do we do once we've got all of this information? The next step is analysing the learning. That involves assessing the child's learning and development in relation to the outcomes of the EYLF to identify progress that we can share with families and others and to help us to identify future learning goals as well. And the information collected about each child's knowledge, strengths, ideas, culture, abilities and interests really informs the planning and implementation of learning program at our services.

Megan: Number 3, we've got planning. So that involves that reflecting on the child's goals to plan strategies and experiences for individual children that will actually extend their emerging strengths and their abilities and their interests. It also involves planning a program that includes supporting achievement of group goals and experiences that really follow up on that input from families and those that are related to relevant community events, for example.

Sarah: The fourth phase of this cycle is the implementation phase. And that involves both implementing planned experiences and identifying and utilising those great little teachable moments that come up all throughout our days and weeks to respond to and support each child's emerging strengths, abilities and interests.

Megan: I love that how much this focuses on interests and strengths, and that line of thinking. You'll see that none of this is based on a child's deficit and what they can't do. We're always moving forward, always improving. The fifth part of that cycle is after the planned experiences have been implemented, then educators reflect on each child's learning and their participation, very importantly, and on the program as a whole. So, reflection also occurs at every step during that planning cycle. In order to measure progress accurately in terms of what the child knows, what they can do and what they understand, the educator reflects to consider whether they have collected enough information about that child's involvement in the program. And we're really going to drill down to the quality of observations that we collect. Continued observation or data collection is key to the ongoing process. Reflection then continues to occur to determine how children are progressing, what might be impeding progress and whether they need any additional support. And educators also reflect as they plan future learning experiences and to review the effectiveness of learning experiences, environments, strategies used to support children and to ensure that their pedagogical approaches are always appropriate.

Sarah: That's right. And we don't need to tell you this because this is something that you're all across, but documentation should occur at all stages of the assessment and planning cycle. And hopefully today as we have a look at some of the sorts of observations and the way that we record or document these, as we sort of reflect on those today and give you some examples of some, you might find some ways that are a little bit quicker and more efficient at that documentation so you are able to spend a lot of that quality time with the children in your care.

Megan: It's all about the amount. It's about getting this as user friendly as possible, isn't it, the right amount to give us the information that we need and that is useful, you know, as opposed to writing long theses on everything that happens in your day. We are so acutely aware of how much you have going on in your room, so we really aim to keep this as practical and user friendly as possible. The focus of the webinar today really is on observing and collecting information that informs our planning, so we also call this data collection, sounds fancy, very simple. Although we have seen that the assessment and planning process is a cycle, we do start always with collecting observations as a first step in that planning process. Really important for us always as educators to take big attention and note where a child is beginning at, then we can track their progress and really take a good look at progress.

Sarah: Now, before we begin today, we'd actually like for you to have a think about the different types of observations you record. We'll invite you to reflect on, first of all, why you record and document observations. What's the purpose of this documentation? Is there maybe more than one? Do different types of observations that you collect serve different purposes? What we'd invite you to do now is actually pause our recording for a moment. So, pause the video and take a little moment now to reflect on why you record observations in your service.

Megan: Okay, so hopefully you've had a chance to think about that. This might seem really simple to you, but it is important for us to stop and think why are we doing this? And a lot of people I talk to in services say, “That's because that's what's expected of us.” But it's really important as a group that we stop and think, why are we doing this? And are they useful? Is this meaningful information? So why do we do it? You'll see these are 2 sort of examples of what jumped up when we run these sessions live. We built word clouds together or participants jumped on and wrote down the main points that came to them when they stopped and had a thought about the purpose of observations. And you might notice that many educators said they use observations to understand a child from their interests, right through to tracking, monitoring development, monitoring growth for reflection, for planning, for programming. They were also really strong themes along with relationships and sharing information with families. So, lots of reasons and I'm sure you've come up with similar things yourself and we'll move on to drill down into that a bit further.

Sarah: Yes so, as captured in many of the responses that we received in those live webinars, observations serve multiple purposes. So, the most obvious one and the one that I suppose a lot of people and a lot of families focus on day in, day out is that just recording each child's participation in the program. So early childhood educators generally do this well and, therefore, you'll notice as we move through the webinar today that it's not going to be a major focus of this webinar. You're doing it really well, whether it's for children with disabilities or developmental delays or any other child within your service. So, we'll leave you to continue doing that and then maybe think about some of these other purposes and how we can use observations for these other reasons. The next thing that you might record observations for is to determine what each child knows, what they can do and what they understand. And that's really important, because that will help you to set goals for their future learning. You might use observations to identify children who might benefit from a little bit of additional support or to provide evidence for the need for additional support, and the reason for developmental concerns perhaps when you're having conversations with family members. And again, we'll have a little look at how you might do that and give you an example later on in the webinar. You might use your observations to identify resources that are needed to support children that need additional support to justify to different funding bodies or even within your service what resources are needed and why. And more broadly, resources needed to support the engagement and participation of all children across your service. And finally, you might use observations to determine the extent to which each child is progressing towards their learning outcomes, and identifying what might be impeding or slowing their progress a little bit. It'll help you to review the effectiveness of learning experiences, of your learning environments, the strategies you're using or the approaches that you're using to support children's learning. So, a lot of different reasons why you might collect observations, but what kinds of observations do we collect?

Megan: That's right. So ,thinking about all those different purposes of observations and data collection, we'd like to know from you what types of observations you use in your service. So again, if you could pause the recording now and just take a moment to reflect on the different types of observations you record in your service. When we ran those live webinars, here again we've got a snapshot of what jumped up in those word clouds that we built together as a group. And you're probably not at all surprised to learn that many of the educators who attended those webinars used learning stories, photographs, jottings other anecdotal records. They also use work samples, mind maps to capture children's voices, and I'm sure there's so many ways to capture what's gone on in a day. Really good that we have a look at what you are already doing as a part of our reflection on how to get the best value and the best information from different sorts of observations and data collection that you use.

Sarah: Absolutely. And what we know from the research was actually reflected really well in the responses that we received from our live webinar participants when we ran these sessions live. So, there was research undertaken by some Australian researchers where they surveyed Australian early childhood educators about what types of data collection they used. And again, data collection we'll use interchangeably to just mean collecting or documenting your observations. The most commonly and frequently used types of data collection were those things that came up most frequently in our word clouds: the photographs, anecdotal written records and children's work samples. The researchers found that more educators collected counted or timed behavioural data for children with additional needs, such as a disability or developmental delay, compared to the other children that they were working with. If you're wondering what that counted and timed behavioural data means, we will give you some examples of that and discuss what type of information we are looking at a little bit later on in this webinar. Now, a third of the educators actually didn't collect any counted or timed behavioural data, or checklist data for children with disabilities within their services, which the researchers found a little bit concerning. As we explain how we can use this to program and plan for a child with a disability in your service, you might see why, for the purpose of sort of tracking where that child is at and the progress they're making, this is one of the most efficient and effective ways of collecting that information. And it was interesting within the discussion the researchers noted that some people that had completed this survey added some extra details and notes, and they said they felt it was discriminating to include that information to use a different type of observation for a child with a disability compared to one without. But if you think back, for those of you that came to our first webinar, if you sort of have a little think back about our obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act, to actually use different appropriate adjustments to include a child or children (phrase not included in webinar) with disability or developmental delay, that actually could be perhaps seen as discrimination not to adjust the data collection method that you're using.

Megan: I mean it sounds all very scary at this point. It's not at all. Well, actually, what we're going to do is simplify things for you. Less is best, sometimes. We'll delve into timed and counted data as Sarah said, but let's just have a quick look at some different types of data collection. First, we'll consider observations that can be used for the purpose of recording children's participation, and as a basis, what we want is for all children to be participating in your program and your days and in your room. There's a variety of different types of observations that we use for that purpose, and what I find really interesting is the NQF and the EYLF are really not prescriptive in the type or format of observations and documentation that educators need to use. This is an argument I have out in the real world, often when educators say to me, ”But we have to do this, we have to do it this way.“ Well no, that's maybe what your manager or supervisor or your services have asked, but it's not that you have to in terms of NQF (National Quality Framework) and EYLF. I think we all need to think really hard about are we collecting observations in the most effective and quick and easy way possible and most useful way. The things that we see really commonly are types of observations that are used to record a child's participation include photographs, including photo sequences as a child is engaging in an activity. Language transcripts, word lists, and word webs. We often see work samples as a lovely way to take a snapshot at what a child is doing currently. I love video and audio recordings, because they're quick and simple and easy to take, and then you can look over it later when you've got less children to supervise and even with a colleague to take a look at what's happening or what's being said, and to document children's participation that way. Learning stories or narratives of key events is another common way of collecting that information. Those jottings, or those anecdotal records, portfolios, are another way to track how a child is engaging in your program, and how much they're getting involved in it, learning or reflective journals. And then another one that’s very common now, and I know for the ease of use and for sharing that information, are those apps which are taking the place often of those communication or floor books. I know as a busy parent it was hard at the end of the day to have a read through that, so receiving that on an app or a phone or something is really handy. I know a lot of services are using that. So, there are wonderful ways to collect a child's general participation in the day and your program.

Sarah: Now, we'll have a look now at some developmental screeners. Now these serve a different purpose altogether, and we will keep thinking about what's the purpose of this type of observation as we go through today. They are commonly referred to as checklists – you might have heard developmental checklists, and they provide a snapshot of a child's development just at one point in time, just when you’re completing them. They can be used to identify developmental areas where a child might need some additional support along with, really importantly, the child's strengths. So it may be that you actually hadn't noticed some of the strengths until you complete this, which is sometimes really nice. When we've worked with services in the past that have actually sat down and worked through a developmental checklist, even though they might think it's sort of a bit old fashioned and ticking inside the boxes, but when they've done that it's helped them to sort of focus on, oh wow, this is a real strength, and then collect some more richer information about that particular area. Now, ACECQA have released a really useful document showing how developmental milestones correspond directly with the EYLF and the National Quality Standards, so that's this one here with the yellow on the cover, and you can download a copy of that for free. It's really easy to find if you search the title of the document, so 'Developmental Milestones and the Early Years Learning Framework and National Quality Standards’. If you start typing that into any search engine, it'll pop up pretty quickly the link there. And you might use developmental milestone checklists like the one in that document or you might have others that are floating around your service or that you've sort of collected over the years. We tend to be very good at collecting all these sorts of resources that we can refer back to. After our live sessions of this webinar, we've had a few people come back to us and say, “Oh, I hadn't even thought about using that that I had in the cupboard, and I've pulled it out and we're actually going through and using it again.” So, you might use a document like that or another one such as the 'Ages and Stages Questionnaire', which is the other one you've got on the screen there. These measures can provide you with objective information about what the child can do within your early childhood environment, which might be very different to what they can do at home or in a set therapy environment. I think sometimes it can be easy to dismiss that, you know, the parent comes in and says the child can do X, Y and Z and you're like, "I haven't heard them say a word and mum's reporting that he's speaking in full sentences at home, there's something not quite right here.” Particularly for children with developmental delays or disabilities, it's quite common that they might display very different skills in different environments. So even though they can do it at home with mum or dad or at the speech pathologist's office in that clinical setting, they may not be able to display that skill within your early childhood environment, and vice versa. You might be seeing things that mum or dad actually don't even see at home. So, the 'Ages and Stages Questionnaire' will help you to sort of capture what the child can do within your early childhood environment, and it's a published scale that you'll actually need to purchase if you'd like to use it. And again, if you just search for that information about that will come up online, it is simple and accurate. It's a screener that's used from one month all the way through to 5 and a half years, and it provides a snapshot of development across several areas including communication, gross and fine motor skills, problem solving and personal social. It's really easy to score, you basically put a zero, there's a list of tasks or skills that you'll have a look at for that particular age. We'll give you an example of this and it will come to life in the next section of the webinar. Basically, it's a zero if the child doesn't yet do the task or skills, so you haven't seen it at all. If they do it sort of sometimes but not consistently a 5, and if you see them consistently doing that within your early childhood service, it's a 10. So, you just simply mark, either zero, 5 or 10. You'll add up for each section. And there's an information summary that gives a visual indication of whether, for each developmental area, the child is progressing well for their age, really as expected. If there’s perhaps a need to focus on the area and just monitor for progress or perhaps concern cause for potential concern and further evaluation by a professional. So again, we'll give you an example to be able to tell you what that looks like. Now it's important, when we are thinking about these developmental screeners, to note that measures like this do not provide enough information to let us know about the intensity, the frequency (how often), or the duration (how long), a child's behaviour or participation being recorded. So, for those of you that are from community-based preschools in New South Wales, those terms might be sounding quite familiar with you. If you're applying for high learning support needs funding and the child does not have a diagnosis, you may be wanting to collect some preschool observations that do show those things. This will show just a snapshot of what the child can do. It won't show how much support they need, for how long they need that support in your preschool room or your early childhood service. So how frequently throughout the day or the week you need to provide extra support to support their participation or for how long and/or for the particular behaviours of concern. For example, without additional support from the educators, how intense does that behaviour become? How frequently do we need to, do we see these behaviours coming up and for how long do the behaviours continue? So, we'll keep coming back to that and it's important even if you're not in a preschool, you might start to think about why those 3 things in terms of talking to your management or other people within your service around the support needed.

Megan: It's important for us to get to that real nitty gritty and people don't realise that we're working towards getting to the timed and counted data, and things like that that will give us a bit more information, really solid information about what's going on for that child. So, while screeners that we just looked at provide information about a child's development across developmental domains, there's also observations that assist us to collect information about the child's participation and engagement within your early childhood environment. This is one of my favourite things because I think, before we get down to the nitty gritty of what we want each child to achieve and to track and measure their progress, the first thing that I want to see broadly in a service is that a child's engaging and participating throughout the day in a range of activities. This is a nice way to oversee how the day's going for that child and how they're engaging. These measures of engagement, they tend to be broad measures of participation in the routines and activities of your day, including how children play and engage with activities, materials, how they engage and play with peers, adults. That can provide a decent little snapshot of a child's level of engagement and also areas where educators might want to put some extra focus or to support that child to be engaging better in those times or with those activities or people. So this STARE, which is the Scale for Teachers' Assessment of Routines Engagement is a really simple little measure designed to be used by educators like yourself while working alongside other children in your environment. It's not something we need a clipboard and to stand back and to time and measure and do all that, it is supposed to be something done quite easily. When I do this out in the real world, I have it there, I think about the activity. The time that I'm watching that child, I'm just loosely observing that child even in the corner of my eye. I don't have to be shadowing them, for about 10 minutes across a few different routines. Then I just rate the level of their engagement with adults and educators, their fellow peers and friends, and then the materials and activities. Then I have a look at the complexity of that engagement and again, like I said, we will have a look at this in action shortly, so don't worry too much about that. But I just want to end once again with this broad measure of engagement. It does not provide enough information that indicates that intensity, frequency and duration of that child's behaviour or participation being recorded. But it does give me an overview of times in the day that children are engaged in participating really well and other times in the day that they might need some extra support or I've got to start putting in some explicit strategies to help them. Was there anything you wanted to add?

Sarah: I think these really come to life in the example section. So, if you're sort of sitting there at home thinking...
Megan: “What are they talking about?”
Sarah: “...not sure what you're talking about there.” When we give the examples of feedback we've had from the people that have come to the live session it’s, “Ah, that's what you meant. I can see it now.” We'll move on now to something that's probably a little bit more familiar to you, which is those anecdotal observations. They're another type of observation and those word cloud activities in the live webinars let us know, along with the research, that this is something that early childhood educators do pretty frequently and we see this out in the world when we're visiting services. A running record is a detailed account of what has occurred, and it's written while the event or interaction is taking place. Anecdotes also provide an account of what's occurred, but they tend to be written after the event or interaction and they're usually not quite as detailed as the running record. They provide a snapshot of the child or children being observed in that situation. Now, importantly here, depending on the amount of detail that you include, such as the time of day, the dates, information like that, particular times, running records and anecdotes might be able to be used to indicate that intensity, frequency and duration of a child's behaviour or participation being recorded, particularly if you have collected sort of several of them to show a pattern over time.

Megan: Here's one you may or may not be familiar with: ABC, this is one of my favourites. I'll just talk quickly about the columns and then we'll fill in with a little example to show you. So we've got, just to explain the columns quickly, date and time, the setting, what sort of routine we're observing. I find, sorry, I'm going to start in the middle, behaviour. When I use one of these out in the world, the first thing I'd do is define the behaviour that I'm recording so I've already got an idea of what I wanted to observe, and if educators are commenting on a child's behaviour that they're concerned about or they're excited about, doesn't matter what it is, they define what it is. It might be putting a hat on or throwing a hat over the fence, whatever it is. What I do first is work out what I'm tracking and then every time I see that behaviour, imagine it's the child puts their hat on, the date and time, the setting, when that happened, what happened exactly before that? Was the child prompted to do that or did they look at other kids to do that? Whatever happened exactly before that behaviour and then exactly what happened after that behaviour. Did someone comment on that or what happened exactly after that? And then any comments. If it's a behaviour of concern, like it might be hitting or something, in the comments section we might even add, but you know, Tommy did something, we might add in a little bit of information that we could see as the observer that adds a bit of context or depth to that observation. So, let's fill it in this example here we've got, I think our behaviour of interest was sand throwing in this occasion. We are concerned about this child and his love of throwing sand, and so we just want to see how many times that's happening during the day, and let's try and get a story behind what's going on here. So I've put down the date, the time, when that happened. Most likely it happened around a sandpit and being outside. What happened exactly before that throwing? And that was just that Jack was playing beside little Thea and another child was holding and playing with the toy animals. The behaviour happened, that sand throwing occurred, and it went into the child's face and he took the animals. What happened exactly after that? The child, Thea, left the sandpit and the child continued to play with those animals. So I get just a quick snapshot and that doesn't have to be beautifully written or anything like that, they're just quick jots. We are just capturing because we want to know the time that it happened, how often it happens. There's also a place there really for that sort of intensity. This is when we can start adding in a little bit more detail. What we know from using this sort of data collection is that when this is collected over several instances, days, parts of the day and the routines, we start collecting enough information that gives us an idea of the intensity of the behaviour that's occurring, the frequency, we definitely get a sense of how often that's happening. Sometimes the behaviour’s happening so often we just resort to sort of using a tally almost, and then how long that is going on for. That gives us a lot more depth of information and demonstrates where extra support is needed. So, this is starting to be information, data observations, that's giving us a much greater depth of information that's useful for our planning and even our request to management or our group for a little bit of extra help or resources or even funding. Anything that you wanted to add?

Sarah: I think that covers it, and now here's our magical timed and counted observations that we promised you. Now, these are different to all the other types of observations that we've looked at so far because they involve recording information that can be measured, so it can either be timed or counted. It provides an objective measure that can be used as a baseline or just that starting point so that progress can be tracked over time, and we think about how we use these types of measurements ourselves. So some of the most obvious ways, sort of the fitness tracking and the number of steps that we take in a day. Megan, you thought of a really interesting one. Yesterday we were talking about this.

Megan: New month resolutions. A few of us were talking about wanting to read before we go to bed at night and talking about how we could measure that – could be in terms of a chapter or pages, in my case, sometimes just a paragraph. But if I don't count that, I can't tell if I'm improving and I don't know what I'm working towards or if I've made any change or not. This sort of way of measuring our progress is really very quick and very effective.

Sarah: It's generally useful because they can generally be analysed much faster than some of those qualitative observations. So think about reading through those beautiful learning stories, it may take us a while to read through anecdotes of running records, learning stories, to really capture in a moment what's happened. Whereas if it's just simply a tally of yes, 3 nights this week Sarah's actually read the book before going to bed instead of sitting there scrolling on her phone, then we know that next week when I do it 5 nights a week, that I'm making progress towards where I want to be. Whereas if Megan had to read through my whole journal to find out that information, it'd take her a lot longer. So what we count or time and record will depend on the purpose of the observation. We'll get you to think about different ways we measure things, so whether something is easy sort of has a clear start and finish to be able to count it or if it's something that's sort of, we're not quite sure where it finishes and starts and probably timing it and saying, okay, that's how long that whole behaviour occurred for. But we'll talk about that in a moment, but this will probably not surprise you that timed and counted observations will clearly and objectively show you the frequency (so how often) or duration (how long) of a child's behaviour or participation. If we add notes to these, as educators we could also capture the intensity of the behaviour or participation as well. These are a really sort of neat way to capture that information quite quickly.

Megan: You also might want to record the duration, how long a child does something? For example, how long they sit attending at a small group, how long they remain at the table when a meal is being served, how long they cry in the morning? It's very hard to count the number of cries, much easier to go, ‘Child's arrived crying, put my timer on and child's quiet, I can stop the timer’. It's definitely the easiest way to sort of track how that's going. Latency is another thing we could record, and that is how long it takes for a child to do something after a particular cue or prompt. Usually something like an instruction, "Tommy come and put your hat on" and then waiting to see how long that happens. "Come to the bathroom. "Time to pack away". I'm sure we've all met a child that, well look, as parents, you've got to say you sort of train them to say something 13 times and then they'll do it. Or you train them to do it when you've screamed and yelled. So, what we want to do is not train to do that. First thing we need to do is just with that one cue, how long that's taking and then we know after we're putting different strategies and things, we can measure it again with the hope that that's decreasing. Also, another point really to mention is we can do this in a variety of ways. The format, the way that we do this is really not important, it's easy. I used to have a clicker, I've had tallies, I've had little notebooks strung around my neck even, I've written things on my hands, I've done all sorts of things to collect this data. Obviously, this little magical device works some wonder, and just a quick side note that all of the tables and things that we show you will be available on the Department of Education website for you, so don't worry about any of that. To really make the point, it's really not important how we do it, it's just that we do it.

Sarah: Absolutely. The simplest and most common type of counted observations are frequency, tallies or frequency counts, you might have heard them referred to. So that's basically where we count how many times a behaviour happens or occurs. We can also calculate a rate, so we might want to know how many times per minute a child, or an educator does something, how many times per hour or per day. Now when we're saying behaviour here, I think it's easy for us to think of behaviour as a negative thing, but we're just simply meaning something that a child does or an educator does. It's not positive or negative, it's just something we can see that they're doing. So, a behaviour that you might want to count might be something the child does, like wees on the toilet, which a lot of you are already collecting this type of data anyway. How many servings of lunch they the child has. It's something that you can count, you can record and share that information. You might want to record how many times a child requests assistance if you're wanting them to actually ask for help. It might be something that you are aiming to increase. You need a baseline for, or it might be that this child's doing it constantly asking for educator help and you're wanting to decrease it, so just requesting assistance. How many times they approach peers during play? How many times you actually get a 2-word utterance out of them so that they're actually putting 2 words together. Or it might be counting the number of words they put together in an utterance or a sentence. Things like hitting, spitting, standing up at mealtimes, things that sort of have that clear start and finish that’s easy to count. Educators, we might be interested in our own behaviours as well, which can be confronting sometimes that we actually have to step back and go, hang on, what am I doing? We might want to count the number of times we do prompt, and as Megan said, as parents we tend to do this a lot. That constant reminder, reminder, reminder. What happens if we actually stop and just give one reminder to transition or 2 reminders. So, it might be something that you're working on as an educator that you'd like to count. So important to remember to be able to count something – it really needs to have that distinct beginning and ending, so we don’t need to guess. If we're thinking about, “Was that one shout or 2 shouts or 3? Oh, I'm not quite sure.” If you're not sure whether something has occurred once or more than once, then it's probably a good indication that it's not something that is easily counted and maybe perhaps would be better timed.

Sarah: And we'll again look at some more examples of these later in the webinar.

Megan: So now you might find yourself asking, should I time something or count a behaviour of particular interest. If you pause here, we did the same in the live webinar, pause the recording now, just have a think of some examples of behaviours that you know are definitely better counted and see if you can come up with say 3 different things. And then we will share with you what we learned in the live webinar.

Sarah: Okay, so here are some examples that the educators who joined us for the live webinars came up with, and they thought these would be better counted. We've got things like snatching, pinching, pushing, number of reminders. I can see in there the hitting, tipping out toy boxes. Now some of the examples that people came up with such as screaming, shouting and crying. If you think about that and whether they necessarily have that distinct beginning and ending where we can time, that we can actually count, it would actually be better probably to time those. So, okay screaming is happening. Okay, it's stopped now. Child's come in and is crying, Megan, is that one cry or 2 cries or how many? I'm not sure, let me just pop my stopwatch on. Let's go and try and get this child engaged in the activities in the room because dad has just dropped him off, he's a little bit distressed. Okay, I can stop that now, he's engaged. He's working with me and I can report back to mum and dad later that it was actually only 3 minutes this morning, and that's a lot less than yesterday when he came back after that big break. It's just those things that sometimes even though we think, “Oh, how many screams?”, probably recording it in terms of time would be better.

Megan: Yes, definitely.

Sarah: Okay and let's have a think of some more things that might be better to be timed rather than counted. So, behaviours that are better timed, again, pause the recording here and see if you can think of 3 things that you might time within your early childhood environment.

Megan: The responses that were created in the word cloud in the webinar included these less discreet or ongoing behaviours. You know this crying, sleeping, you don't count, well I mean I know you can count how many sleeps, but it might be better to record how many minutes is that sleep to report to parents? Depends on the purpose of course that that's the thing, isn't it? Engagement or concentration on an activity or in play. Some noted toileting, which is a really sort of interesting one. You might time how long a child sits on the toilet or how long they take between visits to the bathroom. I know in primary school at one point I was measuring how often a child requested to go to the bathroom. It depends again on what it is that you're trying to look at and what the behaviour that we want to change to improve or decrease or what have you. If you're interested in toileting successes or accidents within a certain time period, it would probably be more useful to count the number of times sat on the toilet, the number of toilet successes or even the toileting accidents causing wet clothing or something. So these were, you can see there's a lot of the word tantrum in there, meltdown, how long they go until a response to routine sleeping.

Sarah: I think the message that we'd really like you to remember is that even though we are thinking about behaviours, and we often do focus on those behaviours that we want to change, to decrease the behaviours, especially if they're interrupting a child's learning or the learning of their peers. But it doesn't need to be something that we'd tend to see as negative for you to use this type of thing. I mean, you might actually focus on, okay let's record the amount of time engaged as opposed to the amount of time wandering around the room when trying to increase that.

Megan: Yep. Yeah, wonderful.

Sarah: Okay, we'll move on now to scatterplots. Now they are a type of time sample, it's an interval time sample recording for those of you that want to know the specifics, and they can be used to track or count behaviours across the day or a period of the day. You might focus, for example, just on outdoor time, and they can help us to see patterns of behaviours and when they occur most frequently. Now we'll talk about scatterplots over the next couple of slides, but it will really come to life for you when we give you that example in the next section of the webinar. So scatterplots are often used to record the number of times of behaviour occurs but can also be used to rate or classify behaviours. You could use a scatterplot to track the intensity of target behaviours and you just need to adapt the code, and again, we'll have a look at this code. They can actually be quite creative because you decide what you're going to record.

Megan: That's right.

Sarah: What we do is we begin by observing at a particular start time and just looking at the behaviour of interest. So, we'll say up here what we are looking for and then there's just time periods here, so here we've got between 8:00 and 8:30, 8:30 and 9:00 and so on throughout the day through to 4:30 in half hour chunks. If you were looking just at outdoor time, it might be that you are interested in sort of a 10-minute period or a 5-minute period, again up to you. But each box here, generally when we are using it, would represent a number of occurrences, so usually a range or another corresponding rating. At the end of the period, so at 8 o'clock, say “Okay, I'm going to now just be aware of how many times Megan stands up from her desk and walks over to get a drink from the water fountain.” And she's done it once and we thought, but if it's no times at all we'll leave it blank. One to 3 times we'll do a different sort of code and then you fill in the corresponding code for what's happened. So, we'll have a look at some of those codes now.

Megan: Here's a little example, but I always say with scatterplots you have to have a play with them to get what it is that you get out of them. It's not until you use and you go, I see actually how this is useful. For me it feels like an overview, you get a pattern, like Sarah said. So here is an example of 2 that we've used that in the field recently with little Yvonne. What we're interested in is her pushing other children and the table that we've developed. We just leave the box empty if we've got no pushing. If there's one or 2 or 3 little pushes, a diagonal strike. If there's more than 4, less than 7 we've put a cross. If it's just gone hell for leather, 7 times or more, I cross out the whole box. So, you can see there I don't need any writing, any story – I don’t write what happened before, what happened after, anything like that. I can really have this piece of paper next to me and I've got my timer set to just beep every 10 minutes and I have a quick overview. None of this is perfect, it's full of human error. It's just so we get an overview, we get an idea, and when different people in your group do it, you get a nice consensus and you all get an idea of what's going on for that child. And you can start collectively together thinking, you know, why and what strategies do you want to put in place. Another one we used for little Harley, his concerning behaviour at the time was biting. So we just decided intervals, like 5 minutes or something, if he wasn't playing near peers and there were like no opportunities, nothing happened, left it blank. If he's playing near peers and there was no biting, we put a strike, because that's a great success that he's next to someone and not biting or a tick it can be, whatever you want it to be – this is what you've got to play around with. And if he's playing next to other children and he bit someone we put a cross. So, it just gives us again patterns, you get to see how the day is looking. Very interesting to do and I encourage you all to have a little play with it. And again, we'll go through an example shortly.

Sarah: So just for example there with little Harley, if you've found that you are having lots of crosses here in that sort of 2:30 to 3:00 and 3:00 till 3:30 section, sort of across different days, not so much in the morning, you might then have a look at is it that you're in a particular environment? If you have a consistent routine that you generally stick with, it's going to be a lot more useful for you to say, ‘Oh, that's generally when we're outside, it looks like an outside time, or that's the afternoon when Harley seems to be getting probably tired, maybe he needs a bit more support’. So you can then sort of try to dig into those times, but as Megan said, we'll have a proper look at a completed one a little bit later.
Megan: Yeah
Sarah: Now, what about developmental summaries, because we know that you spend a lot of time and effort completing these to share with families and with other people. Developmental summaries again are really those point-in-time summaries of a child's progress towards the learning outcomes. Now, they're not observations in themselves, but they can sort of draw together information from lots of different observations. And because they're not the original observations in themselves, they actually don't provide enough information to show that frequency, intensity and duration of educational supports that might be required to support the child in your learning environment. So, they wouldn't be a good use of documentary evidence for applications for potentially funding for some extra support or to show your leaders within your service that you might need extra support at different times.

Megan: So, things to remember for all the observations we collect, make sure things are dated, the more information there, the better really. We can include things like we were inside or outside, what the routine was, what the time was, what peers were around. Sometimes as an outside observer, I also write the level of adult supervision, because I noticed last time I was using a scatterplot, we got the behaviour of concern a lot and it wasn't really about the time of the day, it was about what I noticed the trend was when there's no direction or the educator supervision wasn't great. So, it was handy for me to just add that comment, because I realised that that was one of the variables that was affecting that child's behaviour. Yeah, like I said, peers, adult supporting or anyone involved in experience, that little bit of extra information or the context helps flesh out the data that you've collected.

Sarah: So, we'd like you to think about how observations or data inform planning, and specifically when we're thinking about working with children with a disability or developmental delay. Have a read through these points on the slide and think about which of them you think is, what's the purpose for it. So, can we use them to help us identify children who might need additional support and to discuss that with families? Could we perhaps use our observations to help us identify resources that we might need to support a child's engagement and participation across the day? Can we use them to give us a baseline of what the child knows, what they can do and understand so that we can set the goals for that child? Is it about measuring a child's progress towards the goals and learning outcomes or reviewing the effectiveness of what we are doing as educators and about our learning environment? So just pause now, have a look at those and just mark down quickly, even if it's on a little piece of paper or if you can remember in your own head, ‘Okay I think it's one, 2, and 3’. Just have a little think. Now, it may or may not surprise you that data collection or observations can actually serve all of these purposes. So again, we'll get you to think about what is the particular purpose and what's the best type of data collection I can use, and we'll have a look now at how we can use them in some real case scenarios. We'll start off by meeting our friend Eddie and we'll learn from his educators about how they collected observations to support a conversation with his family about his development.
Video [male educator]: When Eddie came to our centre, we noticed he wasn't developing at the same rate as most of the other 2- and 3-year-olds. He was 3 and in nappies the whole day. He refused to sit on the toilet. We didn't want to push it while he was settling in. Eddie typically spoke in single words, and it was often difficult to understand what he was saying. We did notice that he had a real interest in puzzles, but he would usually play on his own without paying attention to the other children. So, we knew that we needed to have a discussion with his parents about our concerns and the best way forward, but we also knew we had to tread carefully with such a sensitive topic. One of the first steps was collecting some objective data about what he could do and also the areas where he needed more support.

Megan: Right! So, the team collected some photographs and jottings of what Eddie enjoyed doing at the centre, and they noted that he played alone or alongside his peers, but he didn't talk to them. So, these are classic ways of collecting observations, you've got the little photo sequence: ‘Eddie sat at the table on his own, emptied the puzzle pieces out. He picked up each one, looked at it, put it in the correct place.’ An educator commented, “Wow, you found where the vehicles go.” He looked up and smiled, but he didn't say anything.’ And another little sort of jotting there. A few weeks after, ‘Little Eddie walked past another child, sat at the puzzle table, completed the puzzle independently without talking to her.’ And on another observation: ‘Eddie was in the block corner and other children were stacking blocks together and beside him laughing and talking, and this child stacks on his own saying "Bup, bup, bup.” We think maybe he's saying "Up", but he didn't attempt to interact with the peers.’ So, if Eddie was a child at your service, would you feel comfortable to approach his parents with your concerns based on those observations that I just went through? Are those observations enough to have that discussion, would you say? So have a think about that. I'm sure everyone's pretty quick to decide whether that's sort of a yes or no. Yes, that's fine, or no, it's not. Sarah, did you want to comment?

Sarah: Well, the team that was working with Eddie didn't think so. They wanted a bit more. Their fear was that it would be seen as just their interpretation of what he was like and almost a judgement of his character in a way, that ‘Oh yeah, he's so quiet.’ And in that, parents could perhaps think, ‘That's just what he's like’ or ‘Why are you picking on my child?’. They really wanted to have some objective information to show the parents as well to support where the concerns were. So, they completed the Ages and Stages Questionnaire for Eddie, who was 3 at the time, so they used the 36-month questionnaire. Now as we go through here, we promised you we'd show you what it looks like, so there are different questions for each section. So, we've got here communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving and personal-social. And if you remember back, it was if they read a statement and they said, ‘Yes, we see Eddie doing that in our service’, they would give it a 10 if he's doing that consistently all the time. If it was like, ‘Oh, sometimes he does it when his favourite educator's around, but other times we don't really see him doing it’, that's a 5. Or a zero if they haven't seen it at all. Then you add it up over the time, so you can see here that for communication, for example, he scored 15 in total out of a potential 60. So, there were six different things. If he could do all of them consistently, 60 would be coloured in up here. So that 15 you can see the black area here, that's showing that's below the expected cutoff for what we would expect for a child of this age in that particular area. Really interestingly, the gross motor area he was well above that cutoff, so that was a strength that the educators hadn’t noticed as much until they sat down with that checklist and thought, ‘Oh, he can do this, this, this and this’. You know, 5 of the 6 things he was doing consistently for that age. So, he was below the expected cutoff of development in the areas of communication, of personal-social development, well above for the gross motor. Some of the fine motor and problem-solving tasks which were in the grey area, where it's worth keeping an eye on this and perhaps tracking his development but not a cause for major concern yet. The educators really reflected on this because some of those tasks involved him either copying an adult's drawing or answering questions or repeating words to show that he could do those fine motor tasks or could demonstrate his problem-solving skills. Because they involved that sort of receptive communication, for that reason the educators thought, ‘Well, it might be a bit of a communication delay that's affecting the development in those other areas, the other developmental domains. Or maybe he actually can do it, but he's just not demonstrating it because he doesn't understand what we're asking him to do.’ So that gave them a really clear picture even though it was sort of this sort of simple checklist reflecting as a team, they got a clearer picture about that. They decided that along with those other observations, that this outcome of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire did provide them with enough evidence to go forward and explain to Eddie's parents why they were a bit concerned about his development in those areas.

Megan: I really like this checklist as you know Sarah because it's like a third party. It's simple to do first of all, because it is actually made for parents to do at home. Simple 6 questions, like you said, the team get to think about that child. Also, I like down the bottom we have, when things fall into the black, it just very gently it gives you some words. It's like, if a child's fallen into the black section, this indicates there may be cause for some further assessment, so there is some sort of gentle wording there that just says, ‘Oh, this may indicate that we might want to do some further investigation about how this child's going’. It's a great little thing. So, the team decided it's time to chat with mum, so I'll let you know how that part went. This is Catherine, this is Eddie's mum. What the educators didn't know is that his parents were concerned about his development, but they were also worried about revealing their concerns to the team. Eddie had been at another centre before he enrolled in this service and the director at that first centre, she told us later, sort of bailed her up one day in the hallway in the morning saying, “Look, we're really concerned about Eddie's development.” And she said that “Eddie, he should be talking more by now and that when he did talk, you know, nobody can understand what he's actually saying.” And then she also said that almost all of his peers were fully toilet trained. Then they asked Catherine, “You need to go to your GP and ask for a developmental assessment.”. And then they said that they'd be able to apply for extra funding. So, this was first of all a huge shock to Catherine. She felt embarrassed, ashamed. She felt that other parents walking past her could hear what was going on, and they heard that her child wasn't doing well. And what really stressed her actually was that when they said that the child couldn't be understood by anyone, that really sort of upset her. And of course, you know, parents are home, we get used to how our children talk and we understand them fine. We don't even think that someone else wouldn't be able to understand them. What else? She thought of him, you know, trying to communicate throughout the day not being understood. And that was a bit that worried her. But she also went away feeling that, which I was really alarmed when she told us this, she said, "I feel like they want to make extra money off my child that they need him diagnosed so they can get this extra funding." And I know you'll all be aghast at that because we all know that's absolutely not the point. Nobody makes money from this. It barely covers an assistant if you can get your hands on one. And unfortunately, it was this reason that she left that last centre and went to the new one. So that's the background story. So now these poor educators need to very delicately approach this.

Sarah: Yeah. And how can we do this? Now, we could talk, Megan and I could talk all day about this. We'll try and just capture some key points to give you some key points to go away with. We'll leave some questions for reflection at the end of the webinar too that you can talk through as a team in terms of these sorts of conversations. Before we even think about having these conversations or raising concerns with families, we need to stop and plan. So you might have an agenda or you might have a particular purpose or thought in your mind of where you want the parent to go, how the perfect outcome of this discussion with a parent will be for the parent to accept that there's some sort of a delay there and to agree to follow up with a developmental assessment. But there are actually a lot of different paths that a discussion like this might take, and it actually helps to sort of stop and think through the possibilities of how the discussion might pan out. And to some extent, you just need to go along the path that emerges as you have these discussions, each family's experience will be different. There's a lot of different ways these directions might take. Some examples when we've spoken to educators out in the field that have come up in the past have been parents sort of thinking, “Oh thank you for saying that. I've actually been beginning to wonder a bit about Eddie's development. Thanks for bringing it up. What do you think I should do next?” We've also had educators say that parents have said, “Oh, I didn't know that that was any different, this is our first child,” or this is a sibling of a child that, sort of, their development was different at the time. So sometimes parents can be a bit out of touch with developmental norms. You are seeing children of the same age generally day in, day out. You know what the range is within the development in different areas – what's typical and what might be a little bit different in terms of the children of that age. But parents don't necessarily see a lot of children at their same developmental level as their child. We've had parents say, "No, there's no problem.” Which can sometimes just be code for, “Look, I don't need this at the moment. They might agree that perhaps there's a bit of a delay or something there, but they don't want the label. So, we've had the case of "No, no school will want him, I've had an older sibling diagnosed and the way this child was treated, I don't want a label for this child.” It may be that you get the response of, "I was just like her." "He's just like his dad." Or “He's just like his older brother, you know, dad was crawling ‘til nearly 2-years old. He's fine now and he got there in the end, we're not concerned." Or it might be that, "Well, this is actually what children in our culture do. He's not feeding himself at lunchtime because we feed our children at home, we spoon feed them." So be prepared that it's not necessarily going to go the way [you want] and think about what your response to that might be. Next you need to think about who should be involved. It usually would be the director, or perhaps the educational leader and the educator most involved with the child. Some centres or services will have a policy on difficult discussions or discussions with parents and have really sort of structured guidance around who should be there. Some services always will have 2 people there, so there's a witness if sort of wires get crossed just to be aware of keeping records of what was said. You need to also think about when and where. So keep it light when you introduce the idea of the meeting. So, say something like, "If you have time to chat, I'd like to talk in the next week or so. Let me know what time works for you". If the parent asks why, you could say, "Oh, just about how Eddie’s going". So nothing like, "We are worried about his development." That's going to alarm the parent. If the parent already has some concerns, that might be good for them to sort of share with you and they might want other people to come along as well. So, go with a time that works for the parent and then also think about where, so not in the hallway like Catherine, Eddie's mum, was confronted but somewhere private where you won't be interrupted. Let other colleagues know if you have to use something like the staff room or the office to pop up the meeting in progress sign so that you have that private space to talk with the parent. You need to gather your evidence. That sounds sort of very formal, but that just means have those observations ready. Have the anecdotes about the child, including positive ones, and examples of things that you have done that seem, strategies that you've used that seem to work. And if you are tracking a child's development and trying different strategies, then rather than just sort of presenting the parent with all the problems and all the concerns, this is what we're going to do, this is what we've been working on. And then have practical information ready at your fingertips. So again, instead of just going, "This is the problem,” what are the options for the family? Raising Children Network website is very clear, simple information. Again, it's something written for parents, but if you have a look at the disability section, there's lots of information about the different options for families in terms of support they can get. You may or may not know that the NDIS Early Childhood Early Intervention Approach means that families of children that are younger than 7 years can get support for their child to support the child's development even if they don't have a diagnosed disability or delay. There are requirements to sort of show that the child has delay across 2 or more developmental areas, but a lot of information's available on there. So it's not necessarily that you're having to say to a parent you need to go and get a formal assessment and get your child diagnosed with a disability or a delay. There are different options out there, so be aware of those and have the information and things like pamphlets and those websites are good because the parent will be overwhelmed when you are speaking to them. So, to have something that they can actually go back to and read later is really useful.

Megan: And don't frame it as if your child needs a label so I can get some funding. They just didn't say that clearly.

Sarah: Yes, so that's all. And it's funny what parents will, that that conversation might have been a whole heap of things said, but there might be one little thing that the family member will come away with. That's all before the actual meeting and Megan will have a chat about what you can do during that discussion.

Megan: The meeting. Top tip: have it somewhere private, and I'm sure you're all aware that some parents can burst into tears at a drop of a hat and be prepared to give them that space and dignity. You're raising that concern gently, you're starting with, "I'm loving how Levi's engaging with the trucks at the moment, it's really his jam. Isn't that exciting to see?” You know how to put this together positively about including strengths of the child, and certainly one that I always love is pointing out that there has been increase in learning or progress has been made in different sort of areas. One of the hardest things for us to do is to stop and just listen. A parent might want to say nothing and shut you down. They might want to talk for hours on end, but you're just there to receive. Remember this could be an incredibly vulnerable and stressful moment for them, so you are going to have to sit back and just sort of absorb a little bit. Certainly, I don't want anyone to take things personally at this point because you are the messenger of something that could be quite confronting and might not be of course. During the meeting, something that we all know, but we've just got to really remember to just acknowledge, “I understand that must be stressful” or just acknowledge whatever feelings are coming up for that parent. Stay very professional. Only say what needs to be said. Don't talk about how the other children are fabulous or don't go off on any tangents.

Sarah: "Yeah, my cousin's child was..."

Megan: That's right, “Oh no, my kids…”, you know, “That's right, my neighbour's got a kid with autism. It's fine, he's great he loves trucks also.” Just try and stay to the point. This is my favourite one and we've included this in a tip sheet that we will share with you. Always reassure that family that the child is welcome and absolutely belongs to your service and to your program, regardless of how things move forward from here. If you think they're ready for it, suggest referral to that early childhood partner, which as Sarah said, you don't need a formal diagnosis, and come up with a shared plan of action. One trick that I use if I feel that a family are receptive and we are talking about assessment and making those steps, you can be kind of cool about it by saying, "What you could do is make an arrangement to book an appointment or hold a place or reserve a spot. There could be a 6-month waiting list, but let's put your hand up, grab that spot. When that comes, we might decide, ‘look, we're getting on fine and we've caught up in some areas or we're not worried about anything. You don't go to the appointment.” But sometimes, that gentle way might be just to make an appointment, with a speech therapist or to have an assessment off in the future. And then when we come to that, you can go to that or not. But the main thing I think, and when Sarah and I were talking about this before, is my favourite bit is the slide that you just did Sarah, when you talk about all the different outcomes, because we've done this many, many, many times, it still surprises me to today, the response that a parent can have. And there's always new and wonderful ways that a parent can respond. We go into these meetings thinking we know what needs to be done, we know how they should respond to this. We've got to let all of that go and just be available there to receive whatever it is that you receive, because that person is on their timeline in terms of getting their head around this and exploring what's going on, and we have to let every family do it their way without judgement.
Sarah: Really important. So then after the discussion, so it doesn't finish when the parent leaves the room that day, it's really important to maintain the relationship with the family. So, if you feel uncomfortable, depending on the direction of the discussion, it can make you feel uncomfortable depending on the direction that it's gone. But you need to know, even if you feel uncomfortable, how to interact with the family member given that new level of intimacy really, which has sort of opened up, which may not be welcomed by the parent or by you. Sometimes things are revealed, lots of things can be revealed in these sorts of things. Number one, afterwards, respect the parent choice and their decision. Let your colleagues know about the outcome, obviously respecting their privacy. But in terms of if they knew that you were having this discussion, let them know how it went. Remember confidentiality. Lead your coworkers by example in terms of your acceptance of the parent's response. Be really aware of that. If you've taken the lead in having this conversation with a parent, you should also take the lead in terms of how you respond. Smile at the parent, seems simple, but as the days go by, treat the parent normally in terms of your greeting and conversations. Keep the conversation lines open without continuing to push. Your goal really should be a resilient parent and a working relationship with you, follow through. If you've said that you're going to do anything, make sure that you actually do it and let the parent know that you've done it. Report back to the parent. So that might be something as simple as, “We're going to try this particular strategy and we'll keep really working on supporting Eddie to communicate with his peers and be aware of the peers around him. This is the way we are going to do it and we'll let you know how that happens.” Or "I'm going to find out a little bit of more information about speech pathologists in the area and get that to you.” Make sure that you actually do anything that you've said you're going to do. Again, it seems simple but these are things that we've seen over time when this hasn't happened. We've sort of seen sort of negative relationships develop after that. Just keep working to better understand the child in your service, enjoy the child. Sounds really silly, but just keep working with the child and do you know what, whether or not they get an assessment or a diagnosis, it's not going to tell you what to do next necessarily. It's your observations of the child in your environment that will help to show you how to move forward. We really do dig a bit deeper into that in the next couple of webinars, particularly the fourth webinar around developing the Individual Learning Plan. And then just finally a thought around, we still hear pretty frequently, these sort of flippant comments about parents being in denial.

Video [Woman] When Grace first started at the centre, we knew from her developmental reports and what her dads had told us that she was delayed across most developmental areas. We knew that she was still learning to walk, but what we didn't know and what these reports didn't tell us was the kind of support that we would need to provide within the centre to include her on the same basis as her peers. We knew we would need to collect some observations of our own to reflect as a team about what we needed to do to best support and include her.

Sarah: So what did they do? First, they reached for the STARE, that engagement measure, and it was completed across activities and routines just to give the team a snapshot of how Grace was participating in engaging across the day. So, you can see here that here's one example of the ratings that were taken during the language group time activity, but they looked at outdoor play in the morning, indoor activity time, morning tea, language group time, the music group time, lunch, rest and outdoor sort of free play time. So really just sort of trying to have a look at all the different things that happen throughout the day and capture what that looked like then. So, for this example of the language group time, in the 10 minutes that the educator observed her, she spent almost none of the time engaging with adults, with peers or with materials, which in this case was the book being read by the educators, and her engagement was rated as non-engaged. Now when you do use this tool, there's actually definitions of what these different levels of engagement look like, so you're not needing to work that out for yourself. There is some guidance around how to classify each of those things, but because she was sort of walking, rolling away on the floor and also what could be classified as inappropriate behaviour for a group time experience. In terms of wandering around, rolling around on the floor, that therefore is classified as non-engaged. So, you can see here that for most of the time, in most activities, her engagement was relatively low, non-engagement with adults apart from had about half of the time during lunchtime and morning teatime she was engaged with adults and even much of the time during rest time. Now what that engagement actually looked like in terms of the level of direction adults were giving her to get to stay where she needed to be, you might imagine. With peers, again that music group time, she was engaged a little bit with peers and really looking at the outdoor in terms of the materials. The outdoor morning play time, she was much of the time engaged with those materials, the outdoor environment, and lunchtime and outdoor afternoon. So she seems to do a little bit better in terms of the materials and the environment that she's engaging in through outdoor time. But generally, we can see that across most of those areas she was not as engaged. But is this all we need? So what we want you to have a think about now, if we're thinking about wanting to plan for what sort of educational supports or extra support Grace might need to support her engagement in activities across the day at the early childhood service. Does that completed STARE that we've just looked at give us enough information to show the frequency of support she might need, the intensity or how long the duration, how long she might need that support? Let's think about that now, and what the team that was working with Grace thought was, well, probably not. What the STARE did tell them was that her level of engagement with peers was low. She tended to engage in unsophisticated play, which was not a commentary on her character at all. That was a term that came directly from that assessment. And, as I said, the types of play, that classification, there's guidance around how that is classified. It still didn't really give enough information to justify the type of support that she might need put in place and when, specifically, it was needed across the day. They didn't know much about the support that she needed from educators, how frequently she needed the support throughout the day or how long in terms of the periods of non-engagement and unsophisticated engagement lasted. So that was just a snapshot of 10 minutes in each of those times. It might have been that they happened to catch her for, you know, a tricky kind of 10 minutes and then she went off after that and did some other things. So the team wanted to collect some more information.

Megan: Yeah, so the next thing they tried was a scatterplot to get another sort of overview of what was going on during the day. So, this one we built the behaviour of interest to be her engagement in routine activities. We'd already had a clue from her dads that this was going to be something that she definitely needs to work on to participate and engage well. The code we developed there was if she was engaged in the routine, we just stuck a dot or left it alone, she's engaged. We didn't need to do anything. If she was a little bit engaged, sometimes yes, sometimes not, a strike. And then if she's not engaged and it was sort of an issue we put a cross through it, just to see how we were tracking through the day. We did that for the whole week, and you can see we've broken up the time slots of about half an hour and this service has a very steady routine, so that way I could predict what was going on at different times. We noticed that she was least engaged in routine activities. You can see there between the 9:30, 10:30 mark and I think that was morning teatime. And then you can see another, just glancing across where the crosses are, the 12:00 to 12:30 I think was another lunch transition time. And then the 2 o'clock time we identified I think is a pack away transition to indoor outdoors, something that she wasn't keen on. So, it was a lot of disengagement there, but it did sort of help us go, “Okay, well these are the bands, these are sort of the places that we are concerned about. Let's sort of dive in a little bit deeper and get some more detailed observations about what's going on." So we knew how to start designing her program and what have you, and then what support we might need.

Sarah: So one of those concerns for the team was that Grace seemed to take much longer than her peers to follow instructions, as Megan said, particularly around those transition times. They decided to collect some timed latency data, so that was that timing around, "Okay, if we give an instruction, how long after that does it take for Grace to actually follow it?” What they did was they noted down what the general cue prompt would be, you know, “Everybody time to pack away” or "Grace, time to pack away the toys.” So that general reminder and then the specific one for Grace. They noted down the time that the cue ended; the time she actually did the behaviour, so that she started following the instruction; and then the latency was just how long it took. So they really noted there that it tended to take between 7 to 10 minutes for her to start following an instruction apart from the “Pack away the dishes.” She really liked putting the cutlery in the bucket and the noise that it made. So if she was given the instruction, “Okay finish, time to pack away”, she'd be there straight away. So just some comments the team made underneath there that she would pack away more quickly when something was interesting to her. The total number of cues was 5, 33 minutes latency in total, so on average about 6 and a half minutes to follow an instruction. They also collected some timed data on how long she stayed at group time. So again, noting how long the group time was, and they recorded here just really briefly what was happening for the time she sat down. So 3 minutes was song, 4 minute puppet, 2 minute songs, 3 minute with a song, 5 minutes of a story, and then the total amount of time and they could calculate a percentage of each group time that she actually stayed at the group. When they looked at that, they noted that she was more engaged and stayed in the group when there were songs that she liked or activities like puppets or stories with callouts or actions involved. So if they could get her actually engaged in that language group time through some interaction, that would help to keep her there a little bit longer, otherwise she'd tend to wriggle off.

Megan: So then the team put all that together, and they will talk about how this helped them to inform their planning moving forward.

Video: The timed and counted observations clearly demonstrated that Grace needed adult and peer support to engage in our centre activities throughout the day. We had a starting point of how long she would stay at routine activities like mealtimes, group times, and small group play. We discussed as a team that we didn't actually need an extra educator on the floor when Grace was there, but we could benefit from extra reflection time as a team and time to work with therapists and special educators who knew Grace so they could give us some tips and strategies that we could use in the centre and also brainstorm solutions alongside us.

Megan: Excellent. So I hope that's...

Sarah: That was a lot of information!

Megan: A lot to get through.

Sarah: And I always say if you go away with just these take home messages, I'll be happy. Hopefully you'll go away a little bit more than this. But recording observations or collecting data, don't be scared to call it data collection, forms a key part of your assessment and planning cycle. It's not something weird and strange and different to what you would normally do. Different types of observations serve different purposes. Screeners are really useful for identifying children who might need a bit of extra support and to use when you are discussing concerns about development with family members. But those timed and counted observations can really provide you with information to assist in your resource planning and goal setting, and often in sort of applying for or justifying the need for extra support or funding.

Megan: I'm a lazy person so they're quicker than all the writing and the thinking. I like the stats. Reflection points. We are going to support you also with a PDF or a download that you can print out to share with discussions with your team. But generally, what types of observations do you collect at your service now? What do you use for different reasons? And what do you do differently for children who might have a delay of some sort? What are the barriers to recording observations and collecting data that you've come across and how do you overcome this? There are some clever ways that you can get the job done without too much problem. And also, what observation or data collection method are you going to try when you finish this little webinar? There'll be some tip sheets available for you and then also a link to the Department of Education website where you'll find some templates and tables that we've talked about that you can use. Give it a try. Yep, have a play.

Sarah: Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions, and follow us on the social media. We share resources and links on there pretty frequently.

Webinar 3: Early childhood inclusion Step 2 – Strategies to support inclusion

In this 90-minute webinar you will be presented with strategies to support the inclusion of children with disability or developmental delay in your early childhood service. You will be guided through how to best structure your early childhood environment to support the access, engagement, and participation of all children in regular routines and learning experiences.

An overview of different evidence-based strategies will be presented, along with real-life examples of how they can be implemented in early childhood services.

At the conclusion of this webinar, you will have the knowledge to:

  • structure the early childhood environment to support the engagement and participation of all children in early childhood routines and learning experiences, including environmental changes to improve access and support participation
  • implement strategies to support the child’s participation and learning within the routines and learning experiences of the early childhood setting (as written in the ILP).


Watch the webinar recording

Dr Sarah Carlon : Hello and welcome to ‘Early Childhood Inclusion Step 2: Strategies to Support Inclusion’.

Megan Cooper: Hi everyone, welcome. I hope you are comfortable and ready to enjoy some great content. In the spirit of reconciliation, STaR acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today.

Sarah: Now who are we? STaR is an acronym, it stands for Special Education, Teaching and Training, and Research. We believe that with the right support, all people can and should learn together, that lifelong learning is a human right. We work across early years, school-age, and post-school settings to ensure that people with disabilities have access to progressive and meaningful learning. Established in 2001, we've worked with over 600 children and families and over 300 educators, across more than 30 inclusive early childhood services.

Megan: We're going to introduce each other today. This is my learned colleague Sarah, she's an InSpEd-certified special educator and also the manager of Research and Education here at STaR. She's lectured in special education at the postgraduate and university level and also worked in a range of inclusive, early childhood settings as an ECT (Early Childhood Teacher) and a centre director. Sarah believes that early childhood educators, yourselves, are absolutely the key to successful inclusion and she's passionate about translating that early childhood-early intervention research into practice.

Sarah: And I'm joined by Megan today, who is also an InSpEd-certified special educator and she's the manager of Families and Education here at STaR. In her role, she manages all of the programs which support children and adults with disability to have quality learning plans. Just a little note about where we are in this series of webinars, this is the third in a series of webinars and today we're really going to focus in on practical strategies that you can use to support inclusion within your early childhood service. This is useful for anyone from management of services all the way down to a trainee that might have started at your service just last week. These are really hands-on strategies, a lot of them you may find that you are already using without realising that they’re evidence-based teaching strategies. But if you are interested in the overview of what inclusion looks like and why we need to include children with disability or developmental delay within our services, you might want to go back to webinar one where it really gives an overview of inclusive early childhood education. And then the other 2 webinars will really help you to develop a plan for individual children with disability or delay in your services. We also have 3 webinars that are more specific to people working in specific areas of early childhood education. So, a fifth webinar on transition to school for children with disability or developmental delay, which a lot of those working in preschool age, either preschools or preschool rooms in other services have found useful. We have a webinar for those family day care educators and a webinar as well for our outside of school hours care educators, so those working in school-aged care settings. So something for everyone but these 4 webinars really do work well if you do have a chance to have a look at all of them.

Megan: That’s right and this one we had particular fun creating, because the first 2 webinars were a little bit more heavy in content and this one is fabulous. I think you'll love it and as Sarah said, hopefully you find it very validating. Today we're going to cover a lovely, clear definition of what is inclusion. We're going to talk about supporting inclusion just through the environment that you set up. We're going to talk about strategies to set the scene for success, these are all the things we can get happening, before we get into the actual teaching. We're going to touch on intentional teaching. We're going to talk about prompting, something that I know you all use constantly in your days. We will cover strategies for supporting communication, expressive and receptive. We'll end with some take home messages and leave you with some reflection or discussion points that you can share with your team.

Sarah: What is inclusion?

Megan: Inclusion is, according to ACECQA, 'an approach where diversity is celebrated. It requires educators to hold high expectations, for learning and development of all children or people, recognising that every child trends and walks a different individual learning path. And that all children progress in different and equally meaningful ways'. So, something we say all the time, early educators do this very well, accepting the small humans that we meet and respecting that they are learning in different ways at different paces. We've got the quote there from Early Childhood Australia, 'Inclusion means that every child has access to, participates meaningfully in, and experiences positive outcomes from early childhood education and care programs'. And that really is the source, the true definition is that a child is included when they are engaging and participating in your regular program. The framework shown here using these circles describes that when a child has access to your early learning space, they can participate, they're engaging and getting involved in your program that allows this third wheel to come about, outcomes. So, we have all that in place and then we get the full idea of inclusion that a child is a valuable member of your program and contributing and learning each day.

Sarah: That's why the teaching strategies that we use become so important, because it's that enabling the participation, supporting the participation. And that's what we'll be focusing on for the rest of the webinar.

Megan: It's the part that we do and that we're in charge of it.

Sarah: So what can we do to support inclusion? The first thing we can do is actually look at our environment. So, creating physical and social learning environments that have positive impact on children's learning is one of the pedagogical practices that's outlined in the EYLF (Early Years Learning Framework). It's probably something you're familiar with and it's really vital that our learning environments are welcoming, that they're flexible spaces that are responsive to the interests and abilities of each child that comes into the space, and that they cater for different learning capacities. So, we'll have a think about now, why it's important to do that and how we might do it.

Megan: This is one of my favourite basic visuals and it's something I keep in my head when I'm working in different rooms. When we think of the learning environment, we are always aiming for engagement, because it defines inclusion and also, the more a child is involved in activities and routines of your day, the less likelihood we have for that off-task or challenging behaviour. An example I can think of is a dieting reference I read an article about, when you fill your plate, if you put more vegetables, there'll be less room for other stuff. So it's the same thing that when we have a child engaged and participating in different things during the day, less likely, less space, less opportunity for that child to demonstrate behaviours of concern.

Sarah: We'll begin today by reflecting on how the environment actually influences us as adults. If you have a look at these images here on the screen and think about your working environment, what words come to mind when you see these workspaces that you might walk into as an adult? Are they organised and inviting? How would you feel if you were expected to think, to plan or to learn in these spaces? How easy or difficult would it be for you to actually be engaged? So, just have a little reflection there, sometimes it can be difficult for us to take that step back and realise, "oh, hang on, even as an adult myself, it is really difficult for me to engage and concentrate in different environments".

Megan: And what we don't have in those 2 dimensional photos, there is sound. I say to Sarah all the time when I visit services, loud rooms I find gives me the same impact as this clutter, there's a lot of overload. Let's have a think about what does an engaging environment look like? We're not saying everything has to be neat and tidy, it's more that there's a sense of not just order but that there's an organisation, that it's inviting. There can be plenty there, but it encourages you to lean in and get involved as a child. These images here look a little bit chaotic but there's an order to this, there's a right amount of items available for a child. So, we've got there a bunch of stuff from Vinnies or Salvos and the pots and pans, but they're not just dumped into the sandpit. They're spread out and they do actually look inviting, of course in the sandpit there, we've got all those buckets and spades. I'm not saying that we give every child everything that they will need all through the day, it's important that children learn to share and take turns, but there's enough out there that we don't have that catastrophic fight over the one red spade. There's a bunch there, there's plenty to go around so every child can get involved, especially if a big part of your group are super interested in the sandpit. And then of course indoors there we've got spaces that children can retreat to. We've got the activity table there, one of the tricks that I like, having 4 or 5 chairs around that table and making it a clear rule to your group that once that table is full, you need to go and find something else to do because that activity is taken up. When a child moves away, then someone else can come there so you don't have 20 kids crowding over one activity. And you've got some nice light coming through and like I said, what we can't see or feel in that room, things like the temperature and the sound. Sound level is a big deal, and like I said, many services I visit I look for ways of how to bring the noise levels down, because it can be really overwhelming.

Sarah: It can, and it can be as simple as you can see all those soft furnishings there, that'll tend to absorb a bit of the noise. I know we've gone into services and just put soft fluffy pieces of felt on the bottom of chairs so that there's not that scraping sound, because we tend to then make noise to overcome the noise that's already there. So it's important to reduce the amount of noise in the environment to start with. You'll notice today we've captured video from early childhood services out in the real world. We've spoken to educators and centre directors and some of those you'll think, "Wow listen to that noise in the background”, and it's not until you step out of it that you realise how noisy our environments can be. As well as those general things, there are some more specific environmental adjustments that we can use as well to ensure that your environment is ready to welcome any child from your local community. Now these might be permanent adjustments, such as ramped access or placement of furniture to make sure there's clear pathways to move through the space. When you're thinking about that, that's not just going to benefit a child or an adult that may be using a wheelchair or using access devices to help to walk, walkers and things like that. But also think of those parents with prams, a lot of the time these sorts of adjustments benefit a whole range of people that might access your services. We have services that have used hydraulic change tables to enable you to safely and respectfully change a child who doesn't use the toilet, who may be a bit heavy to lift up. So you can see here the child can pop on there and then it will mechanically come up to the correct height for you to change the child. And we might do things like ensure that educators are confident in using keyword signs, so that they could use different signs while they're communicating verbally with children. You might also need to make adjustments to your learning environment to enable access for specific children that come to your service. Some examples are, they're using an FM (frequency modulation) device, which you can see here this educator has what looks like a little microphone attached to her here. And what that will do is send her voice straight to the child's ear who is hearing impaired so that when explaining what to what to do, the child knows what's happening, they can be very much part of the group. We've seen these used on things like excursions as well.

Megan: Again, all of those things increase engagement, because children who can't hear or aren't communicating well are left out in their own world if we don't pull them in by making those changes.

Sarah: If you had a child enrolled whose vision impaired, you could also use tactile indicators like strong contrasting colours. Think about the placement of who or what you want the child to attend to and the amount of glare that might come through. So you'd organise the space so that if the child's facing you or a peer or an activity that you want them to interact with. You don't have a huge amount of light such as a window with light streaming right into their face, you'd face that behind them so that the light can come through and focus onto what you'd like them to look at.

Megan: We can also make specific adjustments to enable access for children with particular physical disability, and this might include accessing specialised equipment such as standing frames and chairs, but specialised equipment isn't always necessary and you can think outside the box. Discussions with families will help to ensure that the set ups and what we choose are safe for a child. We can chat about our little friend here Maddie in these photos, this is the same child in the same early learning service. She has access to peers and learning experiences, she's supported in the top one there by a specialised piece of equipment I think the hospital lent us so she could get involved in that water play. At the same time she's doing her physio work and she's getting involved with the activities with her peers. The next one down, she's again in another specialised chair and she's got children around her, but we couldn't take photos of them. This is another one of her favourite activities, it allows an educator to move away from her and not support her physically. They can get on the other side of the table and join in on that play or model language, without supporting her or worried about her toppling or anything. One of Maddie's favourite activities was being in the sandpit which in the beginning we had a problem solving meeting to work out how are we going to get her down there and with all these devices and contraptions and her AFOs (ankle-foot orthosis) on her feet and what have you. It was through chatting with mum that she said, ‘You know, we just use that little beach chair, that's perfectly fine as long as there's someone near, and that card table there I think we grabbed from Kmart and we popped her in solidly.’ The sand is actually quite supportive there and with an educator close by, they can also be hands off and facilitate regular peer interactions and pretend play and all the rest of it, without too much drama. And then you've got over there in the group time, an educator has found it easier, to pop her between her legs and support her that way from behind so she can support Maddie to learn the different songs and actions rather than making a fuss of getting her back in her wheelchair and then it lifts her away from the group. We preferred just to move her down and get her down at the same level as all of her friends and we found this the easiest way to do that. So there's lots of ways around that, you've got access probably to equipment pools, and probably a lot more resources available out there than you think if you haven't had a child with that complex physical disability before, but there are equipment pools and libraries that we can borrow from as well. So, all of that again is about increasing a child's engagement in the regular things that you do.

Sarah: When we think about the environment, we think about how we as educators are interacting within that environment as well. So, think of the educators supervision, is it all about supervision or is it about participation and engagement with those children? Over the years as we go through, many, many early childhood services, we've seen lots and lots of supervision plans, up on your walls and some services where educators strictly stick to those supervision plans of where the educators need to be in the indoor or outdoor environment, standing in set positions within the room or the outdoor environment to watch over and supervise the children. Now, we absolutely understand the reasons that these plans exist, but we often also see when there's just adults standing in different areas of the room that children may be struggling to engage with the activities in the environment. And now we want you to think about how you can supervise the children or be aware of those children around you while also participating and engaging with them and just offering that support when needed. So if we have a little look here, we have Rosie here working with a small group of children that were focusing and working on turn taking skills in that year before school, instead of sharing educator or adult attention as well. You'll notice that her back is towards this shelf of blocks here and she's actually let the other educators in the room know, ‘My attention's going to be focused on these 3 at the moment’, and she was aware of where they are, working with other children in the room, but she can also see what's going on in other areas of the room, because of how she's positioned her body there. Very similar as well, we've got down here in the sandpit, again against the wall, this was one of our centre directors that really loved getting involved, this was one of his favourite spots to be. He's there helping to, as some of the children as they arrived in the mornings, needed that little bit of extra support to get engaged and to say goodbye to mum or dad, knowing that he would be there by the sandpit, pretty regularly in the mornings. That helped to make a really nice routine and rather than again, standing in the outdoor area, trying to talk to different parents and families as they came in, knowing that the families and the children knew that they could find him there. That was a nice spot to say goodbye, and again he's aware of everything else that's happening here and the other educators knew that that's where he would be and where they needed to be. And then we have a wonderful engaging language group time, that's being run here by Sue. You might look at this and think, ‘gosh, that's a lot of children’, sometimes these were a little bit smaller, sometimes it was pulling a larger group of children together. Rather than split up into 2 smaller groups, we've found that for this particular group of children, just having the other educators sitting to support a couple of kids that maybe needed a little reminder of, ‘do you know what I'm doing? I'm looking at the book. I'm looking at Sue.’ So modelling that, "I'm listening to the teacher”, sometimes that's better than trying to split off into 2 groups. You need to reflect with your team and see what will work best in that situation. There may be times when one educator with a smaller group of children is going to work better, but sometimes if you have a slightly larger group of children, having that educator there to support individual children down on the floor, modelling that behaviour.

Megan: I've just realised, and we had this discussion yesterday, educators often feel as though it's their job to be the teacher and to go, "everyone look at the front, da da da," throw out a verbal instruction. What this educator's doing here, and this is one of my favourite strategies, what you were just starting to say model, is model, "oh I'm looking at the teacher”, ‘I'm listening to the story.’ So it's another way of directing that child's attention to where it needs to be without yelling at them, without giving them an instruction or being the boss. It's almost being an equal, ‘I'm enjoying the story’, "I'm looking to the front", ‘I've got my legs crossed.’ Modelling, I often say that to prac students and trainees, act like the best student in the room, I want all the children to copy what you are doing. We don’t have to be the boss of them, we can just show them how to behave.

Sarah: It's very effective.

Megan: The first strategy that we want to chat about that sets the scene for successful inclusion is to have high expectations of our children. A lot of these, again something we've been talking about a lot, it's not about what the children will do to be better, it's what we need to do as educators to get great results from our children. We are changing our behaviour actually more than a child's, or our behaviour change before the child's behaviour changes. So first I have to switch my thinking and thinking ‘this child can probably do more than they're letting me know’. This is based on this lovely idea that, as we explained, inclusion looks like children participating and engaging, and there's another element to that. What we know about learning is if a child is not engaging, they're not learning. When we have high expectations of children to learn and encourage their engagement, it all starts coming together. We should always have high expectations of our children that we work with in terms of their engagement in your activities and your routines, and of course this is also one of the principles of the EYLF and exactly what inclusion is all about. We need to always be driven to expect and encourage participation, encourage independence and have those high behavioural expectations of our children as well. It's all a balancing act of course, but that alone is more impactful than you can imagine. We're always thinking, ‘well maybe they can do it’ or ‘maybe they can sit longer’, we've always got to lift the bar. And now we will hear from Michelle who is a mum, a friend of STaR, and who we met with her daughters Ruby and Emily, you might remember them from the first webinar in this series. She'll be talking about her experience of early years education for her daughters, and she will passionately talk about the impact of high expectations of those educators, what impact that had on their family life and for the children's progress. So, see what she's got to say.

Michelle: If it weren't for these girls being able to go to their local childcare centre and being included the way that they were, I could say without a doubt they wouldn't be where they are today. They learnt to socialise, they made friends, the educators taught them things that I didn't think possible. The educators were able to learn to be able to tube feed Ruby and even helped her to start to eat on her own. The interaction with the teachers, the educators, and how the educators were able to understand their needs and meet their needs and teach them things that again I didn't think was possible. It just showed that there was so much more to these girls and when given the opportunity, they are going to grow.

Sarah: Sometimes even the families that you work with, aren't necessarily expecting for their children.

Megan: Especially when they've been told that things aren't going well for their child. I mean a lot of our parents come from a very medical model where they're told, "oh don't get too excited, they may not ever walk or ever talk or ever anything.’ What a great surprise to dig a bit deeper and get really exciting results.

Sarah: We're saying have high expectations, but what do they look like in practice? We can think about, regardless of the degree of disability, a child can still be assisted and expected to participate. We want to promote inclusion, self-help and self-worth. So, for those of you who were able to join us in the first webinar in this series, you might remember that engaging children in natural learning environments is one of the key best practices in early intervention that's been identified, and there's a reason for this. Research evidence shows that this is how children learn best and also it's most appropriate within your early learning setting that they're engaging in play-based learning activities. As early years educators, we know that children learn through play, and that they gain independent skills through being supported to do more for themselves. So this is what you do day in day out for all of the children at your services. I probably don't need to remind you that the activities or what you're expecting the children to be participating in should be age appropriate. That often means using concrete materials and as I said before, play-based learning. So we'll have a little look here at what participating in natural environments might look like. If we start up here in the corner, we have Zach who is supported to wash his hands at the sink just like his peers even though it was actually, with the physical layout of this service, much easier to take a cloth over to him and wipe his hands by the table before mealtimes. Some children make the decision of whether to push or not for that participation a lot easier, in that they just want to do it.

Megan: There's lovely, spirited driven children, ‘I want to do it by myself’, like you said, easy because they were directing, ‘oh, okay we are ready’. And then there'll be some children that will never indicate that they're ready or want to, but we still have to give them the benefit of the doubt and really encourage and say, ‘hang on, let's see if you can do that on your own’.

Sarah: We've got here Grace, who we met in the first 2 webinars as well, who had difficulty engaging in those group experiences when there was so much going on around her. But the educators at her service did have the expectation that she would participate and, most importantly, she was supported to do so. So they didn't just say ‘no, you have to come and sit down’, they worked on how to do it using some strategies that we'll actually talk about and have a look at later in the webinar. But here's a little bit of a spoiler, look how she's up and actually engaged in this song, rather than sitting passively on the floor and expected to sit there and just look or listen. We have Maddie, who Megan spoke about earlier, and we looked at all those adaptations that we made physically to the environment, she's supported here to join her peers at the painting table even though she had that limited movement, and that meant making some adjustments. But again for those who had joined us in the first webinar, if you think back to Freddy, who spent most of the time at his early childhood service in his wheelchair, but away from other children, very much engaged with adults. This was never going to be the right way for Maddie.

Megan: She would have complained, and you know Freddy was by nature up and high and away from all of his peers, who were down on the ground. So sometimes it's just adjusting that height and getting the kids involved at eye level, rather than dissociated.

Sarah: Ruby, we've just heard from her mum Michelle about the impact of the expectations that the educators had on her life and on the life of her family. Here she's sitting at the table eating alongside her peers, you probably can't see from the image, but she's tucking into a big bowl of custard, which was one of her favourite things to eat. That was a way to motivate her at first to get in and participate with her peers. And finally, we've got this image here, participation in natural environments often means that we focus on educational outcomes within our service as opposed to therapeutic outcomes. Now when I say this, I can just imagine early childhood people going, ‘what else? Of course it's about education, that's what we do.’ Sometimes we might try to find ways to collaborate with therapists or other professionals and embed all of their strategies and learning objectives into what we are doing as well, which is fantastic. But here we have an example of Nathaniel who was provided with the opportunity to push his friend, Xavier, around in a wheelbarrow and the focus on the team was on some of the EYLF outcomes for him. So that children had that strong sense of identity, learning to interact in relation with others, showing care, empathy and respect, and also outcome 3 from the EYLF that children have a strong sense of wellbeing, taking increased responsibility for their own health and physical wellbeing. Now, this didn't mean that the team said ‘no, we're all about EYLF and play-based learning, we're not going to listen to what the therapist thinks important for him, it doesn't matter what his physio goals are.’ They didn't ignore that the goal of the physio was for Nathaniel to strengthen his upper body, but they made sure that they could incorporate this therapeutic goal into their educational program. So rather than pulling him aside and saying you have to do your special physio work now, they thought about how can we make this fun, play based and include other children. And it's funny because often our therapeutic and educational goals and strategies will be complimentary, but the focus should just always be on meaningful engagement, within your early childhood environment to lead to positive educational outcomes. We're lucky in the early years because much of the educational outcomes are linked to basic child development, which is often what other people are focusing on.

Megan: And we're lucky because we're creative people that can find a solution and a play based way of doing anything. And I think Nathaniel got a much better workout pushing Xavier around than anything that the physio thought was possible. The use of routines and structure within your environment, is another strategy that will set the scene for successful inclusion. Makes sense, I mean how can you do anything outside of routines and structure? But again, this is something hopefully very validating that what you've got going is absolutely perfect, it's functional, it's regular and it's the way that we want our children to learn. So embedding learning opportunities into those functional daily routines and activities, enables kids to engage and participate, which is the whole meaning and reason of inclusion. It allows us to distribute practice, and this is something that's well backed by research. It tells us that when someone's learning a new skill, it's more beneficial to do small practices right throughout the day rather than practicing something for a whole hour, and I think we go into that in a little bit more detail later. Predictability, structure is very important, I mean I know I do a bit of work and then I get a coffee and then I do a bit more work and then I get lunch, that structure helps guide children through their learning through the day, and to embed practices right through the day. Let's hear from Michelle, she's a director of a super busy long day care service. She's now got 10 children who have a diagnosed disability with her across the week. Lots of individual learning plans on the go, lots of visiting therapists, all sorts of things going on. And the educators need to support all of the children at their service to work towards their individual goals, their individual objectives and practices during the day. So we bailed her up at the door one day and asked her to talk about that quickly.

Okay, hi Michelle. How are you finding implementing the goals or the objectives that come out of the children's ILPs (individual Learning Plans)?

Michelle 2: It's quite easy really because it's just small chunks of the day in which you need to do the goals with the children. It might be something that you're working on at lunchtime, such as hand over hand when using a spoon or a fork, or you might have a toileting goal which you might use at toileting times, or it could be even something as simple as saying bye or hello at pickup and drop off times.

Sarah: Sometimes I think we tend to try to over complicate things in our head. In the next webinar in webinar 4, we really focus on developing and implementing that individual learning plan for a child. We'll walk you through how we can actually break things down into smaller steps, so that we're actually just focusing on a couple of little things that we can focus on throughout the day and week rather than thinking, "oh, I've got to fix all of these things’ or ‘work on all of these things with this child for the whole time they're with me throughout the day.’

Megan: The most important thing is fitting it into your day and your routine and again, we're clever and creative people.

Sarah: Our next general strategy is to use the child's interests and strengths. Now interests and strengths can be highly motivating and we all have our individual interests, preferences and strengths that we bring to our households, communities and workplaces. Using interests and strengths is echoed in the practices of the EYLF, specifically when we think about responsiveness to children. So within the framework, it's really highlighted that we should be responsive to children's strengths, abilities and interests. It means valuing the child's strengths, skills and knowledge, and then building upon those to make sure that they continue to be motivated and engaged. Another way of saying this is that if we want the child to be engaged then we should use high-interest activities and that will really increase the motivation and their engagement in the activity. Remember to check in with the child's family for information about what the child likes, what their interests are. We tend to collect this from families on enrolment or at the start of each year. So maybe reflect on what you've collected there, check in with the families, ‘is Ethan still into playing with dinosaurs?’, that might be a way to direct him when he comes in in the morning and is a little bit clingy with dad. So can you use any of those interests or likes and we'll have a look at a few different ways you could use interests and strengths now.

Megan: It's not that we should run around making sure every child's doing everything that they want all day long, as educators we're using this to our advantage. What does that look like in actual practice? So you can ensure that you prepare the environment with access to resources that a child likes to engage in to achieve success. Here we have Eddie at the top of this page, we know puzzles are what he likes, and we met him in our last webinar, because he's got this interest, he's very good at it, he has that sense of achievement. So when he comes in a bit stressed about separating from his parent, we usher him quickly to something that we know he loves and adores. I'm not saying we're not going to challenge him, throughout the day to do different things, but to help me get over that tricky transition for him, let's start with something that he's good at and enjoys. Another way you might adapt materials is to include a child's interest. We've got the 2 children in the bottom photo who were really into Spider-Man and they were both working on different communication and turn taking goals. So we made them this simple lotto game with pictures of different Spider-Man, because if we didn't have something that exciting for them, they were both likely to disappear and run off and do other things. So for me to get the work that I want to get done or the practice that I want to do with these kiddies, I'm using something that they're really highly attracted to. Another way to do it is to use a favourite activity, in Grace's case, her favourite thing in the whole world until this day is water play. To motivate the child to engage in an activity where they're learning and developing but not particularly loving is to say, ‘well first we're going to sit and do this, some reading or look at some books and then we can do the water play.’ So we're using that water play as a type of currency and motivator, ‘we'll do this and then you get this.’ And in the beginning if we're just starting with the books and she's hating the books, we'll do 3 pages, ‘yay, now let's go and do the water play’, or we'll do 3 books and then ‘yay, well let's go do the water play.’ So it's just a way that we can use these strengths and interests to our advantage and we can slip in those opportunities for teaching and learning.

Sarah: Providing frequent and specific feedback is another strategy that you can embed into your daily practice with all children that will set the scene for successful learning. When feedback is specific, we tell the child exactly what we want them to be doing or what they did that was so great, we should always frame in the positive. Megan and I do love working in early years settings in particular because you’re so well practiced at switching things around, instead of saying, ‘no running inside’ we say, ‘we walk, use our walking feet’, ‘inside voices’, doing everything in the positive, what we want the child to be doing. We can use feedback 2 different ways, we might want to reinforce target skills or give attention to things that we want the child to be doing, ‘great sitting’, ‘good waiting’, ‘terrific sharing’, all the things we want the child to be doing. Catching them doing that even if for 59 minutes of the hour they're not sitting and looking as soon as they sit down, ‘great sitting’, lots and lots of attention. We can also use feedback to correct or redirect, but in a way where we're telling the child what we want them to do, so that ‘walking inside’, ‘ah, wait it's Sam's turn’, rather than ‘stop snatching’, or ‘next time you could say stop’. So sometimes the redirection or correction might be actually giving them the words that they can use the next time as well.

Megan: Here we have a little thinking point for you, a little exercise. This scenario, I'll read out, 'one of the objectives from our little friend Arjun's ILP is that his educators have been working towards him sharing toys with his peers. One of the educators have seen him hand a block to Cody, and the educator nearby said, "good job"’ because we all know how exciting it is when we see something for the first time. So if we pause at this point and have a think, what could we say to make this feedback a little bit more specific, so Arjun knows exactly what it is that he did that was great and more important that we want repeated? Hopefully you've had a few ideas there of what else we could say other than ‘good job’ or ‘good boy’ or similar, something we all blurt out from time to time, it is really a learnt behaviour on our behalf to change the way that we think. This doesn't come naturally and it does take a bit of practice and what I found over the years when I'm working in a room with a team of people that are all working towards improving this, when you hear other people say things, it helps you to create more ways of saying really specific things. Because we do, whether we like it or not, tend to copy or imitate each other, so as a team we need to all try to improve on this. When we ran this webinar live, we had the participants create word clouds, there's a few typos but we can probably pick up a few ideas about that specific praise. What we want is for the child to link what they did with the words, feedback or praise that they receive. So, some of the responses from this word cloud are, ‘I like the way you shared’, ‘thank you for passing that block’. Of course, being a word cloud created in a big group we always find some responses that are borderline. For example ‘sharing is caring’, this is a saying that I know we say a lot as educators on the floor, but it can be interpreted as a general statement because we say it so often, ‘sharing is caring, sharing is caring’ and it may not give the specific child the information that they need to repeat the behaviour. They may not realise it was directed at them as is it something we say all the time. ‘Good plan’, that's also general and the child might not understand what's been said there or what they did that was good, and giving just a thumbs up is a lovely visual cue but the child might not know why they're getting the thumbs up. So we have to be really clear when we're growing or encouraging those new skills or behaviours to be very clear, ‘I love how you passed that block to Cody, what a good friend you are’, make it really clear.

Sarah: Another thing we can do is to use peers. What are we talking about when you talking about using those other children there? Peers are great models, Megan talked about how sometimes we even as educators try to get down to the children's level and model what we'd like to see from them. Children just naturally tune in to the other children around them, so peer tutoring is another way of saying just using a peer or another child to model what you'd like them to be doing. It's a naturalistic way of working within early childhood environments, think about all the times you do it anyway, ‘you can go and wash your hands together’, ‘Jody you show Ethan how to wash his hands’, and it helps to actually create an inclusive environment as well. So we've got a couple of examples shown here, engaging within the sandpit here. These guys were actually not too interested in the adults around and if you had tried to encourage our friend here to come and sit in the sandpit with an adult, she'd actually prefer to be off somewhere else, but when a friend was here she was much more likely to come and engage. They actually supported each other with play skills within that. And the other picture, one of this child's goals was around noticing things within picture books and having a dialogue with another person, initially an adult. If I could point to a picture within the book and ‘[gasp], what's that?’, and is he going to look at me and are we going to hopefully get a word or a sound. Again with an adult, he sat for a couple of minutes, but with this older peer that he idolised, he could sit there and look at a book for at least double that amount of time.

Megan: He was much happier to imitate this cool kid than us.

Sarah: He also provided lovely feedback, the other child, when he talked through what his day involved as well.

Megan: We met our little friend Grace in our last 2 webinars in this series. When we spoke to her team, after reflecting on their observations, her educators identified that she needed support to engage for longer periods of time in learning experiences throughout the day. And one of her educators here will talk about how they use peers, in particular, to support Grace's engagement in activities throughout the day.

Video Audio: Once we had formulated individual goals for Grace, we had to think about how and when to embed them into the day. Grace is a very social little girl and doesn't enjoy being shadowed by educators. Knowing that peers can have a very strong influence on each other, we decided to engage the children in Grace's goals as much as possible. For Grace's goal of staying longer at group time, we decided to include the strategy of alerting her to what her peers are doing and encouraging her to imitate. We asked a couple of children that Grace admired to ask her to come and sit at group next to them. We told the children it was okay for them to remind her with things like ‘stay sitting with me’, or ‘I'm listening to the story’, to model engaging in group time. The educators and I use positive reinforcement by rewarding the behaviour we wanted to see more of, like ‘I love how Tommy is sitting and looking at me’, and when Grace was attending we said, ‘Grace is sitting and looking at me too’. We found that Grace wanted to be just like her peers, so alerting her to their behaviours was very effective. This also had a surprisingly positive effect for the other children, some of the children loved being helpers and showing Grace what she needed to do, which gave them lots of positive attention from educators, and their parents were also thrilled to hear about how kind and helpful their kids have been.

Sarah: The next specific strategy that you can use is to task analyse. Now the term or the word that we use for breaking a task into smaller components or steps is 'task analysis'. A child may not be able to do a complete activity at first or complete sequence, however, if you teach them the skills that they need, one at a time, then they might eventually be able to put the small skills together and complete the whole task or at least complete more of it than they would've been able to do on their own in the past. And as I said, this is something that you probably work towards for a lot of children across your early childhood service, because a lot of what we do is working towards increasing independence. So you might have found yourself actually task analysing skills or tasks without even realising that you're doing it, or knowing that the process had this name. Here you can see the tasks analysis for painting, we worked with a service who had a parent say ‘they're never bringing paintings home, are they not engaged in that? Are they not doing that like all the rest of the kids, I see all these photos in the app of all the other children painting when they're outdoors but there's none, why is my child not painting?’. And it wasn't until the team broke down all of the things that we expect the children to do, to see exactly where the child might need some support. When you think of just that simple easel painting, the child needs to find where the aprons are and put the apron on, clip their paper onto the easel, choose which paint they're going to use, actually complete the painting, after that put the brushes back in the correct pots, take the paper off the easel, go and put it in to dry and hang the apron up. When we break things down, it's often not until we do that we realise how many little components, how many different things we're expecting children to do, and it may be that the child just actually needs help to get there to start with and once they're there, they're right. So it might be helping them, assisting them with the apron and getting the paper there. Then they can do this part all by themself with a little bit of assistance to take it off, they can then pop it in and hang up the apron. So you might start by teaching the first step, but you don't necessarily have to do it that way. It may be that you give a little bit of support here at the start, then support the child, be close by, but let them have a go at the other bits and then move on to a bit of support afterwards. You can do this for play skills, you can do this for specific activities, you can do this for a whole range of things throughout your day.

Megan: I would love to have an activity at this point that we identify in our lives where we use a task analysis. I was thinking Sarah while you were talking, I've done this recently with the 15 year old teenager, taught him how to use the washing machine. Click on this button, do this, add the powder. When you break things down, you realise how many steps there are and it stops us, for me as a mother in this case, assuming why don't you know how to do this? Well I have to explicitly teach that thing, same as my parent who wants to start ordering Uber Eats. Download the app, click on the icon, click on the map, etc. We use this breaking down of tasks all the time in our life and if we don't, how do we learn new skills? We all need to do this, it's a great thing to identify. This is our little friend Ashy here, and he's learning how to do that whole sequence, that we're all familiar with, of independently washing hands, and the service developed a little visual support for him to follow all the steps so he remembers all of the parts. What we want you to do now is just pause at this point and have a think about the sequence of washing hands. When you think about that there are many steps. Now I know lately we've had a lot of practice, but if we pause here and just have a think about what order we do those things, it just gives us that example of really how much is going on in a complete sequence like that.

Sarah: In our live webinars we ran this as an interactive activity where the participants used an app to put these steps in the order they believed was correct, and this was the general consensus, which is probably similar to what you've got. But just having a look at all the things we're expecting the child to do, sometimes we had, depending on the services, they'd get the paper towel first and turn the tap off with the paper towel but this was a general idea of the sequence. So, you've probably had some experience at doing things like these routine things, but we’d challenge you to think about task analysis for other things like play skills as well, not just for those routine things like washing hands or toileting.

Megan: We forget that a lot of things are seem very obvious and we don't know why children aren't doing them or teenagers aren't doing them or adults aren't doing them. It's because we haven't been taught explicitly, and this shows us as educators, like you said, where to start that teaching, what we've already got down pat, what supports might be needed there to do the tricky parts. So it's a great strategy to use and again, it's about us being conscious of this in our teaching. Sarah: Along with the general strategies that we've just reviewed, there are some specific strategies that you might use as well, and one of these is intentional teaching. Intentional teaching is probably something that you are familiar with because it's one of the practices of the EYLF. So it's something that's deliberate and purposeful and thoughtful. When we're engaging in intentional teaching, we know that learning occurs in social context, so it's about us and the children. It involves modelling and demonstrating, educators that are engaged in intentional teaching plan opportunities for that teaching to happen and for the knowledge building. So you're probably familiar with that, what you may not have heard of before which we'd like to introduce you to is the 'effective teaching cycle'.

Megan: And like with the task analysis, once you're aware of this, you realise how useful it is and you can use it in all sorts of settings, it's not just with our little kids. So one way to intentionally teach, as Sarah said, or process or a learn a new concept is through effective teaching cycle. So the first step in that cycle is to model the new skill or the sequence or the process or the concept or what needs to happen. Modelling involves doing that task or process yourself, while you explicitly call out what it is that you are doing. The aim is to clearly demonstrate what you would like that person to do. This could also be known as the ‘I do’, like with the child with the washing machine, I'm putting in the powder, closing the drawer, turning the dial. I'm demonstrating very clearly, visually, practically and with words. The next step is the guided practice in the phase, you complete the process or that task or skill with the child or person and you support them through the process and provide that guidance and that feedback, which is called the "we do" phase. So you do it together. This ensures when you're doing it together, you're doing side by side, in tandem, and as the educator you can pull back on the bits that clearly they can do very well by themselves. Then you can lean in and guide them towards each successful step because you're there with your voice or by pointing or with your hands. If I'm doing that with my child, with the washing powder, I can help them scoop it, but of course they could lean over and put it in by themselves. I don't have to get involved there but if they get stuck with the next bit, I can help them hand on hand, turn the dial so you're there for the right amount to get the skill done successfully whilst the learner gets a feel of that task. The next one is the independent practice. When you've done enough of that guided errorless practice, it's time for, ‘Okay, you show me what you can do. Let's see if you can do all the steps by yourself’, and that's when that child completes a task or the process on their own. The educator stays close to offer assistance or offer a verbal prompt if necessary. Then the final step is getting lots of practice in different contexts with different people, different materials, different days of the week and that supports generalisation. Helping the child do that skill, across different settings and people, and that should be able to be done independently at this point. They don't need any help from you and that means, the child can do that without any assistance, they're doing that independently. We've got some examples here for you, let's show them, and these are little short ones, we haven't got other children around often, but just little quick versions of that whole teaching cycle.

Video Audio: Okay, so we're going to draw a spider together, yeah? All right, so the spider starts with circle for the body. I'm going to do the circle, get ready, around and stop. Let's do it together, you hold the pen, ready? Around and stop. And now it's Georgie's turn, you show me the circle, you do around stop, around and stop. You did it, great stuff.

Video Audio: Get some fruit and squeeze and drop. Your turn, squeeze and drop. Ready? Would you want to do it?
Child: I don't like it.
Adult: You don't like the mandarin? That's okay. Let's do it together.
Child: No.

Sarah: It's okay, because you can have all the blueberries you want

Adult: and ready. Oh, put your bowl over here, squeeze and drop, squeeze and drop. Okay, your turn.
Squeeze and drop. (child murmurs)
Adult: Can we try again? Squeeze and drop. Okay, yum, now it's time to eat.
Child: To eat.

Megan: I think the words with it is really handy isn't it, because when you are learning a skill you can repeat that in your head yourself to remember the sequence.

Sarah: It flows really nicely into our next section, which is on prompting because that showed a few different levels of prompting and using different prompts together. So, prompting is just another word that we use for helping or assisting a child. Again, these technical words that you may or may not have known you were doing these things. There are different types of prompts that we’ll talk about in a moment. But just a note that you should use caution when using any physical prompts and know the difference between prompting a child or supporting them to do something. Like we were there with the hand over hand support, Megan helping Georgia to form that circle, because she really, really wanted to draw a spider, but she wanted Megan to do all of it and Megan wanted her to know that she actually could give it a go at doing it herself, and that was the first step in drawing that spider. Or little Eddie with the fruit, so helping him with the tongs there, that's very different to physically restricting a child or doing it. So you've got the image there, think about the way that often children need to come to the bathroom for toileting or to have a nappy change. Think about the ways that you're doing that or children need to come from one room to another for safety reasons. Are we saying ‘okay, it's time to come to the bathroom, are you going to hold my hand or are you just going to hold my finger today or are you going to walk next to me?’ Give them the options that way, and holding a child's hand is very different to holding them by the wrist, like we see there in that image. So just something to be aware of.
Megan: If we're going to physically assist a child, we have to do it respectfully and also often tell them what I'm doing as well. ‘How about I help you down from there, I'm going to hold you now’. So, nice segue into the different types of prompts. Some, as we've just said, more invasive, more heavy handed or less natural or normal than others. In general, the types of prompts can be viewed in terms of the level of invasiveness and the amount of independence that that person has when that type of prompt is used. This is a prompt hierarchy, it's not set in stone, this is just something we did, you could argue different orders sometimes but roughly. Full physical prompt is the one that we've discussed when we're assisting a child physically to complete that task, actively to complete something successfully. You might need to get them down off something, there's really no other way to do it other than by using full physical contact. But you can say, ‘I'm going to help you, are you ready? One, 2, 3 and down’ or something like that, we've got to do that respectfully. The next less invasive is a partial physical prompt. If we're assisting a child to eat from a spoon instead of the hand, we might have moved to the stage that I can move back and support that child just with the elbow or move away support and then add a little bit of support to get them to successfully complete that task. Then we can phase back a little bit more, and as we can see in this picture, you can do 2 in combination. By chance this educator has this child on her lap and he's plopped in there to see, so she's not restraining him, he's just more sitting there for comfort while she's talking him through using a visual. So she's prompting him to be engaged in different activities using some visuals and offering him some choices. You can see how all these strategies actually work in tangent with each other. Then of course you've got again, one assisting independence and less hands on is just that verbal prompt of ‘let's turn the page’ or ‘do this’ or ‘sit down’ or any prompt to remind somebody what to do next. And then, even less invasive, is just a gesture. Sometimes I get sick of the sound of my own voice and I don't want to yell, ‘Put it in the bin’, I might just point to the bin or show that person what to do. Here we've got Rosie saying, ‘are you listening’ just by pointing to her ears and of course, we can use the verbal there as well. But to pull back that dependency on prompting, often it's nice just to do that gestural prompt. So be careful when you are using those physical prompts alone, they usually go with another type of prompt, just to pair them so when we pull back that physical prompt we've just got the word or even just the point.

Sarah: Another few tips for using prompts always start where the child is at. So if the child doesn't actually need a prompt, for example, we've got Asher in this picture, who was capable of turning the tap on by himself. He just needed a bit of help in terms of the sequence, he didn't need Phillipa to be holding his hand and doing that hand over hand to turn on the tap and get the soap. So start where the child is at and always aim for independence, so that means making sure that you can fade out those prompts. Include peers where practical, so when we think about how Grace's peers were used and they would actually remind you, some of those verbal prompts to remind her, ‘okay it's time to come and sit down now’, pointing to some visuals as well. So include the peers where you can, as Megan said, a lot of the time we're using a lot of these strategies in tandem, it's not the one over the other. We can either use least to most prompting, so where we wait and see where the child needs a little bit of assistance. So for example here with Asher with the hand washing, it'll be fine to see if he get the tap on by himself or if he's forgotten. He might have gotten his hands under the water, but he is just staying there, he has forgotten that he next he needs to, once his hands are wet, get the soap, I'll give him a little reminder about that. If you're doing things like teaching a child to cross a road because you're going out on excursions that you're not going to wait and see what they do when you open that gate. In that case you'll be using most to least, ‘hold my hand’, hand over hand, and thinking of things like scissors too. We often don't let children just, when we are first introducing scissors for example, you put them there and see how they go. We might have more prompting to start with and then fade that back, so it's often around safety or around something where that errorless learning, that Megan was talking about earlier, is really important that they learn to do things without errors or mistakes. We need to be careful not to over prompt, so it can lead to prompt dependence where a child will actually wait and wait for the prompt before they do something. The example that always comes to mind, Megan, was your little friend who wouldn't get off the toilet.

Megan: He was really taken with the sequence of pointing to this picture or saying, and then hop off the toilet. So if we weren't directing that constantly with the picture and the word, he just sat there and waited, often he'd go, ‘and number 5,’ like he would prompt us to prompt him to get off the toilet. So we've got to be really careful to be aware of that.

Sarah: What it can lead to as well, that prompt dependence, is learned helplessness where the child won't try to do the skill for themselves. So if we're constantly assisting a child to get their shoes on before going outside and we are doing it all the time for them and we're not fading back that physical prompting, you sometimes have the cases where they know it's time for shoes on because it's time to go outside, and they'll just stick their foot out after rest time. So you want to try and avoid that, and as I said before, we want to fade those prompts as soon as possible. That's when we pair multiple prompts together, so that we can fade out some of the physical or verbal prompts. So, it's either just using the verbal or just a gesture, ‘time for hat’, that's the way we can do it.

Megan: Now the final section of the webinar, we will review some strategies that you can use to support both expressive and receptive communication skills with all of the children that you work with. Before we talk about supporting communication we need to define it, how do young children communicate? So, pause the video now and write down all of the ways that you think that young children communicate and then we'll share with you what came up in the live webinar. Okay, so I'm sure you've got something probably quite similar to what our groups had. A strong one there, 'body language', 'facial expressions', 'gestures', 'emotions', 'crying', 'eye contact', 'pointing', these are all forms of communication and it upsets me when people say, ‘oh he can't communicate yet’. Well it's very likely the child is communicating even just when they're silent, we can't mix that up with language. Children communicate through just making sounds, through smiling, physically leaning into you. There's lots of different ways that young children communicate, so we like to acknowledge that and respect that type of communication, as well as build up the levels of communication.

Sarah: When we're thinking about strategies to support communication, as you've overviewed, the participants in the live webinar recognise, behaviour, gestures and facial expressions, so some of those key ways and some of the earliest forms of communication that we'll see within our early learning environments. As educators it's really important that we both view these as communication, as Megan said, it's not just about sounds or words, and to interpret what the child is telling us. So the first strategy that we can use to support communication is to interpret that behaviour, those gestures and facial expressions. You may find, 'oh I actually do this all of the time' and it might be just being a little bit more aware about it. So we can have a look at our friend's face here and know exactly how excited and happy she is to share this experience of playing with the doll with the peer that she's looking up to here. Absolutely no doubt that our friend here wants something that's hidden up here on the higher shelf that is looking at. In the middle, a little bit apprehensive perhaps, might need a bit of support there. I love this child's face, they're not happy at all. And again, there's no mistaking that where this child would like to go that he's asking for some support there. So have a think about all the times we can do that and give the children the words for the emotions or what they might be asking for.

Megan: If we put the words to it, one of the things I find difficult is when I see educators go, ‘use your words’ to the child. Well they may not be able to find those words or I'm not sure how to put them together. So it's better that we model and go, ‘oh, you want to go climb?’ say ‘I want to climb’, and give the words so they have a chance to practise them. Next we've got visuals, so visuals and those gestures and keyword sign can all be used to support both receptive communication, understanding of language and expressive communication for all of the children at your service. They're particularly useful for children with disabilities and developmental delays, it's like another layer of support for comprehension for example. Keyword sign, your hands with the word that goes with it, it doesn't replace speech. There are particular keyword signs that we use, but if you use your hands and gesture into what you think that would be, you're probably not far off. Like book, we don't just gesture, we say ‘book’ or like Sarah said ‘hat’ or ‘let's play with the ball’ or whatever it is. So we make the action and we say the word at the same time, a lot of those gestures are quite natural. You can also use gestures or approximation of signs that children use along with the spoken words that they represent, like I said. So before we show you some of the examples of visual supports, we'd love you to think about what types of visual you have used in your settings or your rooms. So if you pause the video now and you think about all the different visual supports that you've probably got going on in your service at the moment, I think you'll come up with quite a few.

Megan: In the live webinars, and I see them when I come into services, how many pictures and print offs and cartoons and all sorts of things that are around the room that help support my communication of what's going on in the room. So, we've got things like choice boards, routine sequences of, 'put your hat away', 'drink on the drink bottle trolley', there's photograph visuals, particular types of like board maker or picture exchange symbols, first and then boards.

Sarah: There's 'PECS' (picture exchange communication systems), 'cue cards', 'posters', 'routines', 'visuals on lanyards'. So a whole heap of interesting things there but we'll have a closer look at some of those now. You might have a sequence in terms of the room routine. When we're thinking about visual supports, think about where they are and who they're there for. We have walked into services where information that seems to be more for parents or family members and educators is actually down quite low in the service, and then things like these room routines up high where the children aren't necessarily going to see it. So have a think about where you position these things in your room as well. But the room routine is useful for a whole range of children, particularly useful who have those kids that are a little bit anxious around separation from family members and when they're going to be picked up and when the people are coming home, what's happening next to be able to point to where we are in the day, get an idea of where we are in space and time. Megan spoke about choice boards, so that's where you might have images, these could be photos, you might have these other images, it's really up to you. I love just using photos of what's actually there and it's a lot easier nowadays with all of our digital photography and things, and you can even get apps that will do this for you. Okay, so 'we're going outside, what do you want to do first today?', 'trampoline', so that that gives the child some choice, some direction, so that it's not just when the door opens for outdoor play time this child's just running around and round and round, it gives a bit of focus of what they're going to do. You might use a first-then, which we spoke about when we were talking about using interests and strengths. So first we'll do this and then something that really floats your boat. Sequences, so you might have it in terms of parts of the day, so their schedule around morning sequence. So we're going to unpack the bag and all the things that'll happen just within that morning time. So the sequence might be around routines, we saw an example of the sequence around hand washing when we're talking about task analysis. Or you can, as I said before when we're talking about that task analysis, you might actually breakdown play skills into a play sequence. You can do that for things that you may not have considered, like imaginary play. The children might need a little bit of support about how do we actually play with dolls. So you've got your dolly, you can brush the hair, give dolly a bottle, cuddle her, blanket on and time for sleep dolly, which they may not necessarily always use, but when you're learning that skill can be useful to have that visual sequence there. Another thing we might have is rules or expectations within your room, so ‘stop, wait and then I can talk’. So, it’s just useful to have the visual alongside of your instruction a lot of the time. So it's not just the teacher's voice that's relying on, we've got that visual to look at as well.

Megan: Okay so communication is all about dialogue and that involves shared attention. So 2 people concentrating on the same thing and then turn taking, otherwise we all talk on top of each other. This video shows an educator that's using a book, she's mostly chosen that book because it's a child's great interest and she's not focused on reading that story word for word or cover to cover. It's more just about engaging him in a conversation, seeing what he notices, increasing his utterance. He could've just sat there and looked at his favourite book passively on his own, but she's got involved and tried to share that whole experience with him. And there are so many opportunities to do this throughout your day. There's little teachable moments but we'll have a look at this one.

Video Audio: It looks like a stegosaurus What is this one? Brachiosaurus. It's got a very long neck.
What's this one?
That one also has a long neck. It's a Mamenchisaurus.
And kind of look like a giraffe.
It does look like a giraffe.
What about this one.
That's also got a very long neck that is long this way, not high.
This one here it has horns.
There is one more, you going to try some? No, it's a Torosaurus.

Megan: You could see she's just responding to him, and it's become this dialogue which is wonderful. To promote expressive communication, you should also create as many like opportunities for children to express themselves or respond to you, especially ones that you feel like you've got to pull those words out of. Ways of increasing response opportunities include providing choices and that also helps keep kids engaged and on task because they feel like they've got some agency there. You can ask yes or no questions that require some response, we can use something we call sabotage, which is withholding something like setting up a situation that a child will need you to complete that sequence or will need to ask for help or something. In this video, we'll look at how we can use those choice and sabotage to elicit expressive communication.

Video Audio: What book are we going to read?
This one
Which one?
This one. It's the animal book.
It's an animal book. We put this one away. Let’s read this one.
The unicorn or the colours? Which one? (child murmurs) Which one? Colours or the unicorn? (child screaming) This one? Yeah, yeah. Oh.

Sarah: You can see there a little bit of that interpreting, the vocalisation as well and waiting, it feels like forever sometimes. It's only a little moment. I think we are so quick to jump in and give answers and direct and support it can feel so hard.

Megan: That's a good demonstration of high expectation because you've asked the question, he hasn't answered and instead of, 'oh okay, he can't do it' you thought, 'I'm going to stay in this moment until he gives me something, I'm going to interpret it.' It is real being in the moment kind of stuff, isn't it?

Sarah: Now, here we'll see an example of sabotage.

Video Audio: Oh no, help me.

Megan: He couldn't complete that task unless he interacted with his educator, so it's something that he'd prefer not to do. It would've been much easier, knowing that fine motor was tricky for him, just to take the lid off and hand it to him, but deliberately kept it on. I mean it's not too taxing but he's going, ‘well hang on a second, can't do that on my own, I'm going to have to hand it back and ask for help.’ So it's a cheeky little way to squeeze in a few more practices.

Sarah: And you don't have to withhold things that are really precious to that child or make them distressed in any way when we're using these strategies. It's just something as simple as that, rather than half unclicking that pen.

Megan: It’s just a little disruption that's annoying enough for them to go, ‘hang on, I need help’ or to reach out or go, ‘hey, the lids still on’ or something like that. Other ways to support expressive communication. Exactly what we just said there. Wait expectantly, look like you are fascinated and waiting for a response. Don't jump in, don't give up, don't walk away, you've got to stay there. And the other thing we can do is expand or correct or recast utterances. So, if a child has gone, ‘bup, bup, bup’, go ‘oh up, yes, up’. So all you do is feed it back to them correctly or if they're going, "’pish, pish’, ‘oh it's a fish’, there's a correction, ‘it's a red fish’ and you can add something on and then encourage them to have a go imitating those 2 words together. So always just trying to tease out just a little bit more, not a lot, it's not a painful one hour explicit speech pathology session. It's just another chance to pull a little bit more out of that child.

Sarah: Some other ways that we can support receptive communication or the understanding is to be aware of potential distractions. You saw in some of those video examples, even when we take a child outside where we think we might be away from distractions and the hustle and bustle of all that's happening indoors. You heard how much was happening in that video when the educator and the child were sitting under the tree there with all the noise, so be aware of that. Use clear and concise language, be aware of where the child's at and it may be a matter of saying, ‘okay number one, get your hat, and then number 2, come back to me. What are you going to do? Get your hat, come back to me’, and then work up from there. So that's breaking directions down into steps as well, so one instruction at the time. Tell the child what you want them to do, so always in the positive. As I said, we love working in the early years as opposed to school and post-school settings because you are so aware and across this. I think that's what Megan was talking about earlier in terms of the teams within services, you hear each other doing it all the time and that encourages you to keep doing it. And pause to provide processing time, so sometimes it's that we give an instruction, it's not that we need to necessarily give it again but just wait. It may take a moment for the child to understand what you've said and process what the response might be.

Megan: Because we're at risk of overloading if we keep going, ‘sit down at the table, sit down at the table, sit down’, they're still trying to work through it, sometimes a bit of silence is quite okay. Okay so what we would love you to extract from this, hopefully during those slides you've come up with a few things that are very validating or reinforcing, ‘yes, I do this well’ or ‘this is something I want to try more’, but these are some key points we'd love to leave you with. Reflecting on and organising, and analysing your environment is a great way that you can support inclusion with the thought that engagement is key. When a child is engaged, good stuff's happening, they're included and they're likely to be learning. When our aim is engagement and participation, we need to focus on those educational outcomes, pretty straightforward. And individual evidence-based strategies are not guaranteed to work for every time and for every child, but we know through that research that they are much more likely to be effective than other strategies. So hopefully you'll feel very comfortable in all the things that we've gone through today knowing that you're already doing quite a lot of them well.

Sarah: And some reflection points for you to go away and think about in your critical reflection time, either individually or as a team. When you return to your service, what environmental changes, can you make to support inclusion? And you might reflect on what you are doing at the moment in terms of the way your environment's set up or even the routine of your service. And why are we doing this? Is it just because that's the way we've always done it? If we made a change, what would that mean for me as an educator, for my colleagues, for the children, for the families at the service? So starting to think outside the box a little bit. What's one type of visual that you could make and try at your service? We gave a lot of examples today or we've had people in the live webinars actually say, 'oh we had it, it reminded me we had all those visuals that we use for a child 3 years ago that were in the cupboard and they'd be great for this group I've got at the moment.' And choose one of the strategies from the webinar today and try it, reflect on how it went, discuss it with your colleagues. If you have any other questions or you'd like to reach out, that's our contact details there. We'd love to hear from you. Thanks for joining us and see you soon.

Webinar 4: Early childhood inclusion Step 3 – Developing and implementing individual learning plans (ILPS)

In this 90-minute webinar you will be guided through the process of writing and implementing an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) for a child with disability or developmental delay in your early childhood service. You will learn about what an ILP is and when one should be used.

You will be guided through how to use observations and other data collected to write an ILP in collaboration with your colleagues, the child’s family and other professionals. Finally, tips on how to work collaboratively to implement, monitor, review and update the ILP will be provided.

At the conclusion of this webinar, you will have the knowledge to:

  • explain what an ILP is and when one should be used
  • develop an ILP
  • monitor, review and update an ILP in collaboration with others including colleagues, the child’s family and other professionals.


Watch the webinar recording

Dr Sarah Carlon: Hello and welcome. This is Early Childhood Inclusion Step 3: Developing and Implementing Individual Learning Plans. We'll get down to how to actually pull a plan together in practice.

Megan Cooper: We'll begin by starting in the spirit of reconciliation. STaR acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, and community. We pay our respect to the Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today.

Sarah: Thanks Megan, so who are we? Well, STaR is an acronym. It stands for Special Education, Teaching and Training, and Research. We believe that with the right support, all people can and should learn together, that lifelong learning is a human right. We work across early years, school-aged, and post-school settings to ensure that people with disabilities have access to progressive and meaningful learning. Established in 2001, we've worked with over 600 families and children and 300 educators across more than 30 inclusive early childhood services.

Megan: Today I'll present Sarah to you. Sarah is an InSpEd-certified special educator and the manager of Research and Education here at STaR. She's lectured in special education at the postgraduate university level and also worked in a range of inclusive early childhood settings as an ECT (Early Childhood Teacher) and also a centre director. Sarah believes that early childhood educators, like yourself, are actually the key to successful inclusion. She's passionate about translating early childhood, early intervention research evidence into your daily practice.

Sarah: And that's something that Megan does every day. Megan's also an InSpEd-certified special educator and she's the manager of Families and Education here at STaR. In her role, she manages the programs which support children and adults with disability to have quality learning plans. This is the final webinar in the series of 4 really focusing in on how to include a child with a disability or delay in your early childhood service. So you will hear us referring back to some of the content from previous webinars as we go through today. We'll pull everything together in this one, so feel free to go back and watch the recordings of any of those previous ones if you haven't seen them yet.

Megan: Today we will go through what is an Individual Learning Plan (ILPs) and why do we use one? How to develop an ILP, how to implement daily your ILP goals? We'll finish with some take home messages and then leave you with some reflection points and also some resources to share with your team, and to bring to life the main points that we went through today.

Sarah: What is an Individual Learning Plan or an ILP? The New South Wales Department of Education defines an ILP as a written document that tells us what the service will do for the child. It's a working document to help services record each child's developmental progress and it’s developed in consultation and agreement with the child's parents or carers. An ILP links really strongly with a service's Strategic Inclusion Plan or SIP. So those of you working in long day care, family day care, or outside of school hours care services who have accessed, or are planning to access, inclusion support through the Inclusion Agency might be aware that having a Strategic Inclusion Plan is the first step to accessing that support and an ILP's purpose. The Strategic Inclusion Plan is usually for your whole service or a room within your service, whereas an Individual Learning Plan is for an individual child. The ILP's purpose aligns with several strategies that can be used to overcome barriers to children's inclusion so it works really nicely alongside that Strategic Inclusion Plan.

Megan: An ILP does not need to be lengthy or complex, the key is having it well written, really clear, and succinct. An ILP needs to be updated regularly, reviewed formally at least every 6 months, if not more. As you know, our little people make progress very quick sometimes and we need to make sure those goals are relevant. And also an ILP forms a part of the planning and documentation of the child's education program progress as a part of the National Quality Framework.

Sarah: What do we include in this Individual Learning Plan? An ILP needs to address assessment information reports and we'll have a look at what that might look like soon. Information about the child's disability, the roles and responsibility of team members and anyone else that might be working with the child at your service. Are there other early intervention providers or professionals coming in to work with the child? Do you have volunteers that might work? Casual educators that come in? Everyone needs to be aware of how they're going to implement this child's Individual Learning Plan, and it should also include a summary of the child's strengths, their interests, and their functional needs. As we work through here, you'll see which areas we really should focus on, that are going to be the most useful for us as educators.

Megan: The ILP has to address long-term goals and outcomes, that's the broader vision or big picture for a child. Specific short-term objectives, which is what we will use across this webinar series. And you might also say moving up to the Kindergarten to Year 12 section of education that could be referred to as the short-term goals, they're interchangeable. ILP addresses the teaching strategies, this for me is really the crux, it tells us what we need to do to support a child develop a certain skill or goal. It has a space for some ongoing evaluation, there's no point in doing any of this unless we keep checking in and seeing what progress we're making, and also documentation of the transition process. So in most ILPs we comment or, at least, refer to when that transition to another room, space, educational setting is happening. We've always got that in mind where the child is moving to next.

Sarah: Before we discuss how to develop and implement an Individual Learning Plan, we'd like you just to take a moment to reflect on why you might use one in the first place. You've all obviously decided to click on this webinar to watch the recording because you think it's an interesting thing to learn about. But we want you to take a step back and just think, why might I need to use an ILP for a child at my service? So pause the recording now and write down any reasons you might think of why you would use an ILP. Okay, so this is a question that we asked people who came to the live webinars and they helped us to build a word cloud. You can see here the responses that we had the most frequently come up as bigger words in the word cloud there. 'Support' is a big one, knowing how to support that child, also what support you might need as educators to successfully include the child. 'Inclusion', 'consistency' which is really important, 'individual support', 'collaboration'.

Megan: 'Targeted approach', 'shared goals', you get the feeling from this word cloud that it's about all of us, as a team, being on the same page as well. So when we take a look at the research, some things that come up are really practical reasons why we do use an ILP, such as things that are captured in the word cloud there, like that it provides us as a team direction and focus. It helps us with consistency that everyone who is working with the child in your service, and even outside of the service, knows what to do and why we're doing it. It has that lovely shared responsibility, it’s a nice way for us to report back to families as well, and it's also proactive. It's not about addressing a problem once something's come up, it's about getting ahead of it and steering children's learning in the right direction.

Sarah: Now finally, and this is my favourite part of this, one of the most important reasons for developing that ILP is accountability. So first off you're accountable to the child's family, the Individual Learning Plan document can be used as evidence of reasonable systematic adjustments that you've made under your obligations with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and Disability Standards for Education 2005. So it becomes really useful in terms of showing what adjustments you've made to include a child with a disability. You're also accountable to funding bodies a lot of the time, so those of you who work in community-based preschools can apply for High Learning Support Needs funding through the New South Wales Department of Education's Disability Inclusion Program. Having an ILP for each child that you receive that funding for is a requirement of having that funding. For those of you in centre-based and family day care services, the ILPs that you develop will actually support and feed into your service's Strategic Inclusion Plan. So if you're accessing that support through the inclusion agency, again, it’s really useful to have to show that. In terms of documentation, it's also forming a part of your documentation of the assessment and planning cycle linking directly to your EYLF (Early Years Learning Framework). The way that we’ll work through this today, you'll see how much this process actually feeds into your regular assessment and planning cycle process. We want you to not think of this as extra paperwork or documentation. An ILP can be included as part of your regular documentation of the child's learning and progress, so think about using it in that way. Developing and implementing ILPs also relates directly to the National Quality Standards, specifically when we're thinking about Quality Area 1 'The Assessment and Planning Cycle', and Quality Area 6 'Access and Participation'. And the EYLF’s principles and practices, such as the principles of partnerships, high expectations and equity, and practices of responsiveness to children and assessment for learning. I think if there's one thing that you can take away from today is that an Individual Learning Plan doesn't need to be separate to everything else you're doing. It very much feeds into the National Quality Standards and the practices and principles of the EYLF.

Megan: We do pride ourselves in making sure that you feel supported in that everything we are sharing with you is easily fit into the system you're already working with. So that first step in writing the ILP is also the first step in your usual assessment planning cycle, which is collecting information, always going out of our way to make sure that you don't feel like you're doing something extra or on top of, and it's really nicely embedded into your regular expectations.

Sarah: What information might we need? The first thing you'll need is information from the child's family about their priorities for their child, their child's strengths, interests, and functional needs. The next planned setting, so whether that be school setting or other educational setting. And the goals or objectives that might be being targeted outside of your service, or strategies being used by other professionals outside of your early childhood environment. But how do we get all of that information?

Megan: What we did in the live webinar, we had a task where we made a word cloud with the group that we were working with. This is where we asked 'how do you collect information from families?'. So if you pause the recording now, take a moment to write down all of the ways that you can think of at the top of your head, of how you're collecting this kind of information from families, we'll then share the word cloud responses. So this is what we created in the live webinar and we can see here all the normal things that you do to collect information from families presented there. Those conversations, incidental or planned or otherwise. Lots of different types of communication words, ‘all about me’ forms, emails, and enrolment and orientation processes that you have in place for all children entering your service. There might be specific parent meetings, or questionnaires.

Sarah: It’s also got in there NDIS plans, so there may actually be other documentation that the family has shared with you as well that still gives you a bit of insight into what's happening for that child outside of your service.

Megan: And again, we're pointing out that these are things that you're doing anyway, it's good for you to know right? This conversation at the door is valid and really important, and part of that assessment and planning cycle is collecting that information. I love that this can happen over a period of time, it's another reason why I really like lots of those little orientational play dates with children who are entering our service. It gives everyone more chance to unpack what's going on or get into the nitty gritty of different supports and things from those informal meetups with parents for example. Anything else in there that jumps out of you?

Sarah: No, just as you were talking there Megan, I was thinking it's really important then to reflect as a team how do we capture that information so it's not just the one educator who's had that conversation with a parent. Obviously pulling it into an ILP and summarising it is a great way to do that, but is there a systematic way of somewhere where you're making those notes about conversations you're having with families and families' preferences. It's also nice as sometimes families don't want to tell the story over and over and over again, they may feel ‘I've already spoken to that, I wrote it on the ‘about me’ form when we enrolled that this was a priority. I spoke to that educator yesterday, why are they now asking me to fill out a different form just because my child's having an ILP?’

Megan: It's hard to get the right balance isn't it? You want to be responsive because our little children change so often and their strengths and interests and what they're into shifts and moves, and our problem areas change. So finding a way to keep that information relevant and up to date so that the person that had that conversation can let the new trainee that spends a lot of time in the afternoon with that child know that information. So we've got that lovely one place where we capture everything.

Sarah: What else do we need to write the ILP? Information about the child at your early childhood service because that's where they are coming to do their learning and their engagement, so including their strengths, their interests and needs. It's really useful to also collect information about friends or useful peers within the service there, as well as their level of engagement in a range of activities within your early childhood environment. Now to collect the information about the child's strengths, interests, needs, and friends, if you work in a centre-based setting where it's more than just the one educator working with the child, it's really important to discuss this with other members of your team who may see different things at different times of the day or in different areas of the service so that you're all feeding into that. Information or data about the child's level of engagement and their participation within your early childhood environment will come from observations or data that you collect. In our second webinar, we provided an overview of the different types of observations you might use, that's 90 minutes full of how to do this. So if you haven't watched that one or you'd like to review it, feel free to go back to that.

Megan: You've got to put all these puzzle pieces together, don't we? So once we've collected that information, we need to analyse it. So again, we're going to stress that process of developing an ILP mirrors that regular assessment and planning cycle that you work with in your daily practice.

Sarah: With that end goal of producing an ILP that's a usable working document that addresses these 8 points listed here that we want to include. We aim to analyse the information that we've collected to really focus in on, at first, producing a summary of the assessment information reports. Remembering your own observations are a form of assessment and the information about the child's disability. Your aim when you're doing this should be to provide a brief overview of what the child knows and what they can do based on the assessment reports. You could include relevant information about the child's disability here, but be wary about focusing too much on the particular label that a child's been given. It's not necessarily going to tell you what the child knows and what they can do in your early childhood environment. Analysis will also help you to determine long-term goals and break those down into short-term specific objectives. We'll work through and give some examples of how we do this as we move through the webinar today.

Megan: Alright now onto ‘analysing’. Once we've collected and summarised that information, the next step is to think about the possible long-term goals for the child. To develop long-term goals or outcomes, we need to consider the child's current level of engagement, family priorities, things that the family have talked about that are important to them, your priorities for the child in your setting and also priorities of other professionals working with the child. Often we find those things come together very well, we tend to agree easily on what needs to be worked on immediately. And also we take into consideration the child's next environment, especially when they're heading off to school the following year, we start thinking in terms of that big move to a very different setting. Again, the goals don't need to be complex, it's useful to think about what you would ideally want this child to achieve by say the end of the year or before the child transitions to the next environment. So those long-term goals, that big view or vision for the year.

Sarah: You might be wondering now why wasn't Megan talking about focusing on the child's disability, that'll surely be important when we're thinking about their long-term goals. The reason why we don't do this is that each child is quite unique within your learning service. Just a little example, here are Ruby and Emily, so you might remember them from previous webinars in this series. We met their mother, Michelle, and Ruby and Emily, they're 2 girls that we've worked with when we were working alongside an inclusive early childhood service. This photo was taken on their first day of going to that early learning centre. You can notice here that they're twins, but you may not know that they also share some diagnostic labels. The girls have both been diagnosed with 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome or velocardiofacial syndrome (DiGeorge Syndrome), which is a genetic syndrome caused by deletion of genetic material from along the arm of chromosome 22. Now with this particular syndrome, there have been over 180 different anomalies reported in people that have this syndrome, but no individual has the same anomalies. So it could have effects on development and behaviour, on speech, language, personality, mood, learning, attention, temperament, alongside several medical things as well. So quite complex. In addition to that, the girls were both diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder or ASD. So when we knew these children were starting at the service, did this piece of paper that we received for each of them telling us all about these diagnosis, tell us anything about how to work with Ruby and Emily?

Megan: Definitely not, it didn't tell us anything.

Sarah: Megan, did it tell us that at least we know we're probably going to be using similar teaching strategies with both of the girls? Given they're the same age, same family background, the same experiences outside the centre, same disabilities.

Megan: No these 2 children were chalk and cheese, they were completely different little personalities. They had different strengths, they had different likes, needs. The teaching strategies we used to include them were completely different. One child was an extrovert and one was an introvert, amongst a bunch of other things, 2 very different children. So even though this information that we got from those reports was interesting, it certainly didn't help in terms of programming.

Sarah: And it'll be the same for each child that comes into your early childhood service. They're all individuals who will interact with you and the learning environment. A piece of paper with a diagnosis written on it won't be able to tell you how they're going to participate and engage in your environment. It's for that reason that we don't place a great amount of weight on the diagnosis of the child when we're writing or implementing an ILP. We really focus in on, ‘what does that mean for the child in our learning environment?’

Megan: Here we have our little friend, Grace, you may have met her before in previous webinars this is how we might analyse information that we've collected. So, let's have a listen to what the team did when they brought together all the information they collected on Grace and how they processed it.
Video Audio: The developmental reports that Grace's dad provided us when she first started at the centre told us that she was delayed across multiple developmental areas. Her dads also told us that their main priority for Grace was for her to develop friendships. They wanted her to be able to communicate with her peers and adults, they were seeing a speech pathologist at home to encourage her to use single words and Key Word Sign to communicate. Grace's parents wanted her to become more independent and to be able to concentrate on tasks for longer periods of time. She enjoyed playing with blocks, sand play, water play, dressing up, and dancing. She loved "PJ Masks" and "Peppa Pig." Grace enjoyed playing near other children at the park but did not seem aware of danger when playing on playground equipment. She was prone to falls and also needed support to navigate space around the other children. At our learning centre, we observed that she didn't stay for very long at learning experiences and activities. So we decided to measure her engagement using the 'Scale for Teachers' Assessment of Routines Engagement', the 'STARE' instrument. This general measure of engagement told us that Grace did not engage for very long with her peers, educators, or materials in the early learning centre, and that most of the time her level of engagement across the day was unsophisticated. Closer observations of Grace at routine times gave us a baseline measurement of the amount of time that she would engage in group times and mealtimes. They also revealed that she was mainly communicating through behaviours such as gestures and touching others, she used a couple of single word approximations. We wrote these down to keep a record of what she said and what it meant.

Sarah: You can see there all the information pulled together, there was a lot there but this is often what you're doing anyway. You're capturing all of these observations you're making yourselves within your service. You're having those conversations with family members at the gate or wherever in drop off times, plus you're collecting some written information as well. So how might you pull that all together? Here's an example of the summary of assessment data for Grace. So the team noted that Grace was mobile but unsteady when walking independently. She shows an interest in her peers but needed support to join in play. Had a range of vocalisations and was beginning to imitate sounds and approximate words. She put her arms out to reach for desired objects but she was not consistently following one part directions or pointing to named body parts. She could eat finger food but was not yet eating with a spoon or fork. Her engagement with peers, adults, and materials in the early learning centre was rated as unsophisticated by the rating on the assessment that was used, which you can hear a little bit more about in webinar 2 if you're interested in that. And she will sit for 6 to 8 minutes in group experiences that included interactive elements and favoured songs. She had also been diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay. You can see there that the team have also noted down the particular assessments completed if they did have a specific published assessment. So you can see here the ones that the assessment centre have used. All of those from PECAT, that was a particular assessment centre she went to and the date when that assessment was undertaken, and then the team have also used the STARE instrument and the date.

Megan: I find this incredibly useful, especially when children are going off to school the next year. Often school counsellors or people in that process say, ‘when was her last assessment?’, and I used to go through folders and look for paperwork and files and things. But when it's on that front page, ‘it was last done in 2021 at PECAT’, it's really handy information to have at your fingertips. So analysing information collected to determine those long-term goals, from all that information we came up with 3 broad goals that we wanted for Grace and agreed on. Firstly, it was for her to engage for longer periods of time during those regular routine centre activities throughout the day, that's just to stay on task for a little bit longer than what she was currently doing. The second long-term bigger picture goal was that she increased her independence at the early learning service through different routines and activities. And the third goal was just that she increased her communication with peers and educators starting from where she began which is, as Sarah said, beginning to shape or to approximate words. So we want her to start with that simple goal of using single words, probably to start with Key Word Signs. So they're her 3 big picture goals.

Sarah: Now those long-term goals can be broken down into smaller or simpler short-term objectives that will be more likely to be achieved within a shorter timeframe. This is important because when we see these objectives actually coming together, then that motivates the child that they've achieved something. The educators around them, it's great to have their family to be able to celebrate these little steps and little milestones as you come along. So that's why rather than just looking at that huge long-term goal, we break things down into the shorter objectives, and it's really important that these short-term objectives are worded in a way that's user friendly and functional.

Megan: This is the key to success, isn't it? So we summarise the key points from research that considers the characteristics of high quality objectives in those Individual Learning Plans and this is what we've got. Number one, needs to be written in plain language that anybody could read and understand. Number 2 it needs to be written in a positive way and that it's describing the behaviour that we want to see. It's not an emotional sense that something's good or bad, it's not that, it's just that it's written in the way that describes the child's behaviour or skill. The third is that it emphasises a child's participation in regular age-appropriate activities and routines. The fourth is that addresses a skill that's either useful or necessary to participate in the service or environment, the activity or routine, or also thinking of that next learning environment, so functional skills needed to participate. The fifth is that the objective has to be written so that I can see it with my eyes, I could point to it, I can measure it, I can observe it. The sixth quality is that it describes how the child will show me what they know or what they can do. It seems pretty obvious, doesn't it? But writing a succinct, clear objective that fulfils all of these qualities takes a little bit of practice. So we're going to work through a few together so you get the hang of how that's done.

Sarah: Let's have a look at this first one. During outdoor play each day, Anushi will play a game of throwing and catching a ball with a small group of peers, just one or 2 and an educator. She will wait for her turn to catch and then she'll throw the ball to a peer or educator within 8 seconds of catching it. Does this objective meet the quality standards? Let's have a look, is it written in plain language, language we can understand without jargon?

Megan: Yes.

Sarah: Is it positive? Saying what Anushi will do, not what she won't do? Yes.

Megan: It could have very well said that Anushi, god bless her, was throwing things over the fence. So we could have written it, ‘Anushi will stop throwing shoes over the back fence’ but we reworded it to explain what it was that she would do.

Sarah: Does it emphasise participation? Yes. It's a very common thing that we do within our early childhood services is focus on cooperative play, active play outdoors. She's got one or 2 peers there with her as well, very much participating and engaging in the outdoor learning within her service. Is it a useful or necessary skill? Yes, and not only for that setting, but Anushi was in her preschool year, she was heading off to school the following year. So it’s also useful for her to know how to play in the playground in the school setting. Again, something that is quite common to see is children engaged in ball play in schools as well, so it has ticked it on both of those levels. Can we see what Anushi's going to do and can we measure it? Yes, so we can see whether she has caught the ball, we can count how many times she catches and throws the ball. We might be able to count, okay, now she's caught the ball, we want her to throw it within 8 seconds, ‘1, 2, 3, 4, yes she's thrown it’, absolutely measurable and observable. And does it describe how she will demonstrate? Again, yes. You'll see as we move to the second part of the webinar today, when we know we can do all of these things with an objective, it really will help you when you're reviewing and updating plans and trying to work out, has the child achieved this or not. So that's why we're spending so much time on making sure that you get this part right.

Megan: And with practice it gets easier, you learn what doesn't work and you learn what words don't work. It's not Anushi will think about playing with other children, we've got no way of proving that she has or hasn't, she's got to demonstrate that. So it does come with a bit of practice and I always say, even here at the office, we check each other's work and make sure that it's clear to our colleagues to make sure that anybody could read it and understand exactly what we would measure as achieved or not achieved. So we'll go through a couple of other ones. John will play cooperatively with others in a small group, so let's take a look at those qualities. Plain language, I'd say so, pretty easy to understand, they're clear words. Is it positive? Is it saying what he will do? It does, it doesn't say John will stop poking the nose of all the children he's playing with. It's like, he will play cooperatively, it's a positive thing. Emphasis on participation, yes, that's something that he's doing to engage. It's something that we want all children to be able to do, especially heading off to school, to be able to play without too much support, cooperatively with others. Does it address something that's useful and necessary? Absolutely, it's something we want for all of our children. When I look at John playing, can I point to it? Can I see very clearly that this is achieved? I'm not so sure about that because I'm not sure what he could do before. I'm not sure, I haven't met John before, what does that mean cooperatively? Is it for a long time or a short time? How many in the group? Is it doing a particular activity? I'm not 100% sure if that child's achieved that thing or not when I look at him across the room. Does it describe what he will do? Not clearly enough for me to rate whether he's achieved that for that day.

Sarah: I think when you were saying, would I be able to tell, sometimes when we've written these objectives ourselves, we know exactly what we're looking for. You need to think, if somebody else walked into the room and I asked them to say whether the child's achieved this or not, would they be able to do it?

Megan: And that's really a good strategy, a great point, to ask somebody from another room or an outsider, a volunteer or somebody read that. If you're looking at that child now, how would you rate that? Because when I've developed this myself, I know what's a good day for John and what's not a good day for John, or when he's better than usual or whatever. I know all that in my head, but it's got to be clear enough for a stranger to read that and to understand it. Let's try another one, George will maintain regulation by being brushed each day after transitions from one area of the preschool to another. So having a look at this one. Plain language? George will maintain regulation by being brushed, this isn't clear enough to me what is going on. The word regulation is a really tricky one and I hate to say it, but it's very fashionable at the moment to talk about one's 'regulation'. Now I'm not sure if it's very clear how to define that and certainly what it looks like, I'm not sure. We all have a sense of what we mean by that but it's not clear enough. Sarah, did you want to say anything?

Sarah: Yeah, I’d just say also that being brushed, I'm not quite sure that that means.

Megan: That he has straight hair or curly hair or is it about brushing his hair? Is it about brushing his body?

Sarah: Brushing his teeth?

Megan: It's not clear. Is it written positively? George will maintain regulation. It's certainly talking about his behaviours.

Sarah: What he will do?

Megan: What he will do, that's not clear to me. What he will do is another story, but it's talking about what he will do. Is it talking about how he will participate, engage in the regular routine of the day? Not enough for my liking, it just talks about transition, I'm not sure what that's got to do with anything and it's not talking about his engagement in that. It's just talking about that as a time in the day, 'he'll maintain regulation by being brushed each day after transitions from one area'. For me, one of the key things that I measure, if I have to read it a few times and I'm struggling to understand what it is that I'm measuring, I know already that it needs to be worded better. It's not talking about what he will do that every other child is doing, it sounds like a very specific ‘George only’ goal which moves directly into 'Addresses useful or necessary skill', I'm not sure that this meets this quality.

Sarah: It may be that the person that wrote this may know exactly what they mean by maintaining regulation and what that might look like for George within the preschool after that transition. But from looking at this, we can't see that it addresses a useful or necessary skill and exactly what it would look like.

Megan: This might be a task for you to do as a follow up, any participant, a better way of writing this, that George will engage in a board game and take 2 or 3 turns. All we have to do is shift it again to be very clear about what we want to see George doing that shows us that he's doing well with his regulation or working on his energy level or something. Is it measurable and observable? Absolutely not because I've got no idea what any of this means and what are the criteria, and what the brushing means or regulate. I don't know how to point to that, I can't point to, ‘oh look there's George, he looks regulated’. I'm not sure the definition of that is clear enough. And does it show me what it looks like when George has achieved that? Not at all. This is a little bit about what I should be doing as a teacher but that's not clear enough for me, so we would need to rewrite that one.

Sarah: Sometimes it’s easy to get confused whether it's in this short-term objective section where you're writing what the educator's going to be doing or the strategies section, because what we've often seen is objectives that are really telling us what the educator or the teacher will be doing but not the child. When we're writing this we want to have the child in mind, what will the child be doing and what will the child be achieving that will involve the educators, always involves the educators doing something as well. But we're going to focus on that in our strategies section which is all about the educators. So what we did in the live webinars is everybody had a turn at rating a couple of objectives. So you can see here that we have the characteristics that we would consider high quality objectives there along the screen and also 2 other objectives. What we'd like you to do is pause the video and have a go at doing this yourself because as Megan said before, the more you practice it, the easier it becomes. Thinking about each of those objectives which of those boxes would you tick? Okay, so we'll have a think about that now, 'with a verbal reminder to do so, Juan will put on his jacket by himself each day before going outside'.

Megan: So if I'm judging this one I'd say nice and clear, very plain language, I understand all of those words. Is it positive? Yes, it's telling me what Juan will be doing, definitely Juan will put on this jacket. Emphasis on participation. Yes, I think he's doing all the things that every other child is doing. Everyone's ‘okay class, go outside, put your jackets on or your hat’ or whatever it is, he's definitely doing what the other children are doing, the group. Is it a useful and necessary skill? Absolutely as Juan is going off to school next year, we want him to be able to get his things and look after his belongings, and get his jacket on and off where there's a lot less support by educators to do that, he needs to do that on his own. Is it measurable and observable? First of all, it's clear to me the prompt that's required for him to have that jacket that we might say, ‘everyone, Kindergarten, let's go outside, put your jacket on. Juan, here's your verbal reminder, put your jacket on’, that's clear. Is it observable? I think it's very clear to me whether he's got it on or not, if he just runs out the door, I'd go, ‘nope, he didn't put his jacket on today by himself’, if he's put it on it's pretty clear, it's either on or not. It could also be half on, which I could comment on, but I think it's still something I can see and observe very clearly. And as I said, it's showing us how he would demonstrate that if I find Juan outside with his jacket on, he's definitely demonstrated that he's able to do that. So the second one, I'll read this one out, ‘Gerardo will talk better and do things he likes throughout the day, similar to other 3 year-olds.’ Sarah, what do you think about that?

Sarah: So, is it plain language? Yes, that's language we understand, it may not be specific or clear exactly, but it's not using a lot of jargon. This was an interesting one, in the live webinars, we often got mixed responses for this and as Megan was saying before, if you're having to read it a lot of times or if some people think that it's ticking boxes and others are thinking it's not, it's probably something you want to go back and reword. Positive language was another interesting one, we would say yes because it's saying what Gerardo will do, he'll talk better, he'll do things he likes similar to other 3 year-olds. Some people thought no, that's not being positive. Remember, what we're talking about positive language, is it saying what the child will do even though it's not well written or understandable, look at what it's saying.

Megan: The opposite of that will be Gerardo will stop biting his friends. So that's not positive, an example might be, ‘Gerardo will talk’.

Sarah: Emphasis on participation? We think so. Saying we're going to do things that he likes similar to other 3 year-olds. Again we had a bit of a mixed response because we had people in the comment box saying, what if the thing he likes doing is running around in circles? But perhaps that's similar to other 3 year-olds, maybe it gives us an idea that we are focusing on, such as ‘let's get him engaged in what everybody else in the group is doing’. Useful or necessary skill? Potentially, although it's not specific enough for us to say yes, however it's not giving us something that we can observe or measure because it's not describing how he's going to show us that he's done that. What these things are, we're not sure. So as I said if you're looking at it having to reword, if you’re not quite sure if it's ticking those boxes or if you show it to someone else and they have a different opinion to you, it’s a really good indicator to think ‘let's go back and see if we can really pull out what we want this objective to say’.

Megan: That's it, be more specific. How do we know if he's demonstrated that? Is it 3 sentences or 3 words, or one utterance? We just can't tell. Long-term goals, so we just want to share with you what we came up with for some short-term objectives for Grace according to her long-term goal. That first one was for her, and you'll remember, to engage for longer periods of time. So the short-term specific objective we came up with, ‘Grace will sit next to a preferred peer at group times and at mealtimes for at least 8 to 10 minutes each session.’ We feel like that's nice and clear, talking about what she will do, and putting in enough information to know when that's achieved or not. The second long-term goal we had was for her to increase her independence, in general, and then specifically we want first for her to use a spoon to feed herself. We've decided that 5 scoops is a good amount to show us that she's made improvement, and we want that to happen over at least 5 consecutive mealtimes to show to us that she's achieved that before we change the goal or to put the measurement up. The second thing we chose for a short-term objective there, in terms of independence, was given a choice of 2 preferred activities that Grace will choose one of them and engage in that activity for 4 minutes. That's very specific, because her current level of performance might be 2 or 3 minutes. So we just want to up that by one minute and then we know, ‘okay, that's a nice steady practice and we'll stop at that until we get lots of success, and then we might move it up a bit.’ We've got enough information in there to say exactly what it looks like that she's achieved, and enough information to know what the conditions are for her to achieve that. The third long-term goal was to communicate with some single words and Key Word Sign. So that specific goal we came up with there was during play and shared book reading experiences that Grace will comment on what she sees or what she's doing using single words, word approximation, and Key Word Sign. So we know that we want to fit in that practice during the day, during regular play and at shared book reading, and that we just want one clear word or a sign or an approximation. So nice and clear and should be easy for us to comment on those little goals each day she attends.

Sarah: Now we're coming to the exciting part of putting it all together in terms of writing the plan. So following analysis, it's time to pull it all together and write the plan. We're up to the planning part of the assessment and planning.

Megan: A quick recap, we have covered the summary of the assessment information reports, you saw there on Grace's ILP cover sheet. We need to work on who is in charge of doing what to make sure that everybody gets a turn of having different responsibility within that ILP. We need that summary of the child's strengths, interests, and functional needs, we need to add to that. We've done the long-term goal and outcomes and those specific short-term objectives. Now we need to include teaching strategies, what we are going to do to make sure that skill is practiced each day. We need to add in a little bit about how we evaluate and check how a child's making progress, and also the documentation of the transition process, we need to cover a little bit as well.

Sarah: Focusing in on how we'll do this exactly, we'll start from the front page of our ILP. So, in the header or on the cover page somewhere right at the front, let's collect all of that basic information like the child's name, date of birth, the date that you've written this ILP, it seems obvious but sometimes these things are left off. The date for review, so remembering a minimum of 6 months but we would tend to say probably more likely we would want to review these things every 3 to 4 months. Team members involved in creating the ILP, including the family, this should always involve the family. So generally, when you come to this point of putting the ILP together, you'll come with your ideas, your summary of the assessment that you've collected and you'll sit with the family members and anyone else that they'd like to bring along, to work out how we're going to do this. And of course, focusing in on the next learning environment too so that's at front of mind. We want a summary of the assessment and information about the child's disability and a summary of the child's strengths, interests, and functional needs, all collected right at the front of the ILP. What might that look like?

Megan: This is the format STaR use; we do modify and change this every now and then. We've got all that key information up the top there that Sarah mentioned. We've got the people involved in the project and the creation of this Individual Learning Plan. I usually put parents up the top and anyone else that's involved with their contact details so this ILP that you've written so carefully, can be shared with everybody involved with that child. We've got underneath the ‘summary of assessment information’ that we wrote before. Then we've got the labels of all the assessments that have been completed and the dates which are handy to have at your fingertips. We've got the strengths and interests, and we've got support needs. We've got there, ‘Grace is determined, enthusiastic, she enjoys blocks, sand and water play’, you heard her educators talking about her needs or support, ‘Grace needs support to follow the routine and select and remain engaged in activities. She needs help to join in on play with peers and she also needs some support to recognise ‘what are safe choices’, as she'd like to do some interesting things in the environment, and needs support to recognise danger.’

Sarah: Once we have all of that information on the first section of the ILP, next we're going to think about those long-term goals and the short-term objectives. So as I said before, this is the part where we're still focusing on the child and writing about what the child will do. Next, the teaching strategies and routine, this is where we focus on the other important people in that room, who are the educators, when throughout the day in the routine will this teaching and learning happen? Include the roles and responsibilities of different team members, and we want to leave there as well space for ongoing evaluation. Again have a look at what it actually looks like.

Megan: Here you can see the next page of Grace's ILP. At the top are those 3 long-term goals about her increasing engagement, increasing independence, and increasing her language. Then we've drilled down to that first objective. We've got in the first column there that ‘she will sit next to the preferred peer at group times and at mealtimes for 8 to 10 minutes each session’. And then we've got those teaching strategies they’re all the things that we know are more likely to work because they have a strong evidence base. So things like that which we covered thoroughly in webinar 3, using peers, visual supports, specific praise, including strengths and interest to motivate. All of those things we know are more likely to work well with our children, and then of course we incorporate strategies that can be used at home and things that speech pathologists suggested in terms of those Key Word Sign like more, eat and drink, things like that we added in as well. So we've got there teaching strategies, sit Grace next to her favourite peer. Now this was very important because she was very taken with her particular friends. Particular friends encourage great behaviours and particular friends encourage her to be wriggly, so we put that detail in the strategies so anybody that was working with Grace knew certain children that were very good at supporting Grace's best behaviour. We taught the peers to pre-warn Grace that there was a change happening, "hey Gracie, come and sit with us at group or come and sit down it's time for lunch.’ We found that Grace took those instructions better from her friends than us. Then also the other kids learnt to say things like ‘sit down’ or ‘time to eat’ using those Key Word Signs. So the team at the service there made that a really fun part of the kids' learning, and they all enjoyed learning those key words sign too, which also supported Grace. Also, we had at lunchtimes a place mat with Grace's name and a picture of the things that she loved the most, which helped her sort of really plant herself and be a bit grounded instead of running around. It got her sitting there a little bit longer during those mealtimes in particular. Then at group times, we did things like using songs to engage Grace a bit longer because she was more engaged in the things with activities and puppets and things that she had choice over. So, we got her up the front and let her choose what song would be next or had little resources of the currants on the buns and things like that, that she handed out to the other children. And what we wanted for her to do, of course, was to sit for at least one song and then when she got wriggly we'd go, ‘oh, we're nearly finished, 5, 4, 3, 2, one, and then let's go’. Then the educator would divert her and get her engaged at a tabletop activity, again to prevent her running around or any escalation. And of course we included that teaching strategy we know and love, lots of praise, ‘I love how you're sitting’; ‘I love how you're looking at the teacher’, ‘great singing’, ‘great looking’, ‘wonderful eating’ and all that sort of thing. And the next column, routine.

Sarah: This is where we think about where it might occur and who's going to be responsible for it. Because it's all well and good to have all of those strategies, but we work in busy services where we might have people away at different times, and is this actually going to happen throughout the day or do we get to the end of the day and ‘go, ah, we didn't use those strategies for group time because Rose was on programming and Farrah was sick today, and oh, what's going to happen?’ So what we want to do is get those routines embedded as much as possible into the routine because the child will start looking for when this is going to happen, and their peers will remind you that it’s time to for it to happen too. Plus then you know when it's happening, and I always think of this with things like serving food or changing nappies or toileting. Just because somebody's away on a certain day, that doesn't mean that those routine things don't occur. Embedding our child's Individual Learning Plan objective practice into the day as well is going to be a way to do this. So we think about the group times to start with, so Kerry or the educator running the group will make sure that the content's engaging and that they have a choice board ready to go so that Grace can choose the song that's going to happen first. And then Jo, who's the trainee educator, will be there to support the peers to prompt Grace. So reminding them, ‘remember you can say to Grace, I'm looking at the teacher.’ And then also to be there to support Grace to transition to that art activity so that it doesn't have to be the educator who’s running the group time that needs to stop and go, ‘okay Grace, it's your turn, you can go and sit over there now and do that’ or ‘Grace, remember…’ It can actually be the other educator supporting and that's written within the routine and everybody knows that's going to happen. And then we're talking about the mealtimes, Farrah and Kerry will take turns to support at mealtimes. It's not just left to the one person because what can happen for our children is that they think, “okay, when Kerry sits beside me, that's when I'm expected to stay sitting there. But if I only ever have practice when Kerry's sitting beside me and not when Farrah or Rose or anyone else is, I may not need to do it when she's not there.’

Megan: This plan helps us to be consistent, that everyone's on board, that we all have the same approach. I've been to so many places that say, ‘oh, the child knows that this person's a soft touch and I'm going to (growls) grump at them if they don't.’ This just keeps us all on board and the child has that sense of a real consistency of expectation.

Sarah: And a space for evaluation. We'll talk about how we might use that space for evaluation in our next section. So that plan, that beautifully written plan, it doesn't need to be complex as you saw there. It's just a table really with columns and rows. We do have a little tip sheet if you were madly there, trying to scribble everything down. We've got a tip sheet with the examples in there and a little template that you might like to use, or you might want to adapt one yourself. It's only as good as it's implemented so you can have the most beautifully written document, but if it's not actually used day in and day out by all of the educators, if it's just sitting on a shelf or sitting in a filing cabinet, we are not likely to see progress. Or if we do see progress, we can't say that it is likely that that's because of the strategies we've put into place and all the great work we've been doing. It might just be by chance, because we're not quite sure. In terms of implementing, we'll have a think now about how to best implement that plan.

Megan: I want to say something super obvious, and I know you know it, consistency is key. It's like anything we're trying to do and to get better at it, a little bit of practice each day is what's going to bring it all together, and all of us being on the same page with that. Making sure that all the educators are aware of the content of that ILP, now it's not that we have to read it every single day, but everyone knows where it can be found, where to put their hands on it. Sometimes I do training in services and one of my survey question is 'where can you find the child's written ILP?' Because we want to be able to grab it and share it with parents or if a therapist comes and visits and you want to show you the ILP. I'm not saying you carry it around all day or anything like that, you can make another user friendly version of it if you want to, that you're making your notes on, but we need to all know what's in it and how to find it. Review that routine section regarding roles and responsibilities before you start implementing it, and when any changes are made, if someone leaves or goes on holiday, ‘alright, Kathy's going away, who's going to make sure that puzzle is available to our little friend when they enter in the morning.’ Like things that you've made the effort to work out and you know that this works, if suddenly that's pulled out you'll find a change in progress rate. So keep it all in review, make sure that we all know what's happening.

Sarah: Also remember that it's a working document. You're going to be sick of hearing me say that by the end of the webinar today. But being a working document, as Megan just said, you need to monitor and collect information about what we're doing, to start with, as educators. So are we actually doing what we've said? Are we using those strategies? What's the effect of using those teaching strategies and adjustments to the environment? And the ILP is an important document as well, to share with the educators in the child's next learning environment to support that transition. So think about all the work you've done to get to know this child really, really well. You know what they're like within a learning environment, which can be very different to what they might be like at home, out in the community, or in other clinical type settings. We want to be able to share this with the child's educators in the next place, so they don't need to go back and do all of that work again.

Megan: All that trial and error information I find really handy is not just what has worked but what hasn't worked. It's wonderful information to share, you know what, we tried this and it really didn't work, but just so the next room or the next teacher knows what you've tried and what's been successful and what hasn't. So, next is monitoring. This is interesting and again, we change our formats on this. We have different ways of collecting a little bit of observation that's meaningful and succinct. What makes this part easy is how well that goal is written. So again, a really well-written goal attracts a really easy comment or observation. So each day what we tend to do is write just a few words like a commentary on how that skill or that practice went for that day. So it'll be like what's usually embedded in the routine of the short-term goal is what time of the day that happened. Although I might be taking a close look at the mealtime in the afternoon. For afternoon tea, what happened? How did it go? And what level of support was required to get that to happen? So some days I might be able to go, ‘hey Sarah, put your hat on’ and that will be fine, and other days I need to physically assist her and show her a visual and show her friends doing that thing. I can just put a quick comment about how much support was needed to get that thing to happen. An example of things that we might see scribbled down in those little spaces there., child took turns with Ben rolling the ball 4 turns with a verbal prompt. So I’m not looking for full sentences or flowery vocabulary or beautiful spelling or writing or syntax, none of that. Quick, short words that tells exactly the outcome and what was done to get it to happen, something that I can measure.

Sarah: Looking at that there, Megan, I think reflecting on some of the things that we've seen people jotting down, you'll get even used to using your own little shorthand as well where you mightn't even need to write as many words there. So we've seen things like ‘T’ for turn taking, the initials ‘V.P.’ for verbal prompt, things like that. So within your team you'll get to know shorthand, but if you work on that as a team there might be other people within your service that you can model off. There is no need to write the name of the child, ‘Jody did blah, blah, blah’ because we know that this is about Jody.

Megan: So I keep making the boxes smaller and smaller so people can't write much and you'd be amazed how small people can write to fit in the whole sentence. Another one might be, '3 lots of 2-word utterance during SBR (shared book reading), after educator modelled and paused'. 'Put bag into locker with verbal reminder’ or VP. 'Played in sandpit beside 2 peers for 4 minutes'. Sometimes it depends what information is important, so you see that top one, 'took turns with Ben', that's because the family were really keen on knowing what was important for them, that that child made some friendships. So we'd included the child's name so we knew who our little learner was connecting with more often or who was a good friend to that child. Also, 'child sat in group, 2 peers joined in singing with actions for the length of 2 songs.’ So when we write up these sheets for people to write little notes on, I put in highlighted yellow what the measurement is, number of minutes at group, how many songs they sat for, how many spoonful’s they ate, and how many turns did they take. Because I love, if you look back on webinar one, I love timed and countered data because it's nice and easy. Again I can just write tallies, in 10 minutes, one, 2, 3, 4, 5, I can make a quick measurement without writing a sentence.

Sarah: There are examples of how we can do that in webinar 2. One of the most important steps involved in developing and implementing an ILP is this, reflection points, so reflecting on it and evaluating it. Your plan needs to be an evolving one. One of the most important things is that the ILP is a working document and we're evaluating it regularly. That evaluation occurs not only when that official review time comes up after a certain amount of months, but often it's important to reflect in your regular team or room meetings, or meetings with your family day care coordinator, that might come out to support you, to decide when we're thinking about those short-term objectives. First off, has the short-term objective been achieved? So it's been 4 weeks, we've been doing lots and lots of practice each day that the child's here, has it been achieved? And this is where we told you it'll become a lot easier if you word it in a way that is easy to measure. Look back on those notes that you've taken where we've said that Grace is going to sit for 8 minutes, she's sitting for 12 minutes. Even though it's only been 4 weeks, yes, she's achieved that. We're not going to keep trying to work on the same objective then if she's achieved it just because we've got a review date on there that's not for another 3 months on the top of the document. For that particular objective, we're going to choose a new objective related to the same long-term goal, or it might be related to one of the other long-term goals on there. So you can update and replace or change and alter those short-term objectives before the official review date. If you think about ‘has the short-term objective been achieved’ and the answer is no, then there's another question you need to ask yourself, which is ‘are we consistently implementing the teaching strategies that are written there?’ Because if you are, then we need to work out is the child making at least steady progress towards the objective. So if Grace isn't consistently having 5 spoonful’s when she's doing it, but with a bit of support, she's usually doing 5 with that prompting and support independently. She'll do 2 on one day, she's done up to 4 on another day, but it hasn't had that consistency. But we can see that she's improving, she's making progress, before she wasn't attempting to scoop at all herself, wasn't even sitting at the table before. So in the case that she is making steady progress, then let's continue working on that objective by implementing the strategies consistently. If you ask yourself, is she making steady progress? Well, no, she's plateaued now, or it's really up and down, it's everywhere, we can't see what's happening here. At that stage, it's time to review those teaching strategies and workshop a new plan of attack, you need to review and update your resources at that point. You might have conversations with other professionals that work with the child, other educators within your service, the child's family just to see, okay these strategies, even though we're doing it consistently don't seem to be having an effect. ‘What else can we do?’ If when you ask, ‘are we consistently implementing the teaching strategies?’, and the answer is ‘no, well sometimes when Megan's there, we always do it’, ‘we always do what's written in the plan, but it's harder when we combine rooms because there's fewer children there and we've got the casual educator in, they haven't really been doing that’, ‘the routine's not quite been the same’. In that case, we can't say that the strategies aren't working because we haven't been using them consistently. So what you need to do, if you reflect and say, ‘the objective hasn't been achieved, but we're not consistently doing what we've written down that we'll do’, you need to give those strategies a go. You need to continue working on the objective by implementing the strategies consistently and then you'll come back again and review again. We'd love to say that there's a perfect formula that every 3 weeks on the dot is when you will review each objective. It's different for each service. It depends sometimes on how often the child's coming to your service, how many absent days they've had, how many times in the day, if you're working on something like a toileting objective, you've only got so many opportunities throughout each day to practice that. Whereas if you're really working on something else where their child might just have one little practice on each day that they come, then it might take a little bit longer.

Megan: Well that's what I like about this sort of tracking is you can see what's happening. If you have, I mean we always have days where the reptile man comes in and the whole thing's turned upside down, and you go, ‘okay, we didn't work on any of those things, we did something else’. And if you have a few of those disruptions and a few absenteeism, no wonder we haven't been able to. So it's nobody's fault but it's a great way to assess where we're at and what's happening.

Sarah: Which is why we actually encourage people to, even if you haven't had a chance to practice those skills or take those measurements, to note that down if the child's been absent, because you don't then get to the point of that official review and go, ‘oh, why haven't we made progress?’ Megan will talk now a little bit about that review that happens a little bit more formally every 3 to 6 months.

Megan: We all get a sense instinctually, because we're there day in day out, and we know our children well. We get a sense when we've got to bump this up a notch or we're not going anywhere. We all get a sense of it, but we've also got to look at it, analyse it a bit more, review that a little bit more formally. So completing that evaluation, the final column in that ILP template, whenever you update an objective or shift something or change a teaching strategy, and at the very least every 6 months, which is seems like a long time with our kids because they do make incredible progress. And of course this forms a part of your assessment, reflection and programming and planning cycle because it is linked to the EYLF. So it’s something that we need to do anyway and you use your reflections and those comments on progress made in that evaluation column along with information collected through ongoing observation, information from the family about what's going on for them and in their household, and changes at home, and possibly reports from other professionals working with the child. And reflect on that, the relevance of the long-term goal, making sure that that's still something that we're working towards, and to update those short-term objectives and the teaching strategies. So bringing it all together to make sure we're on track or what needs to shift or change. If something's achieved, it's wonderful, we can knock it out all together and put something new in or we can just increase the expectation within that goal. But it gives us a chance to get together and decide is this still what we want to work on?

Sarah: It does tend to be another official meeting with the family where you have time to sit down and talk with them.

Megan: You know, I feel like this ILP empowers us as educators. I know myself, I used to feel completely overwhelmed when I had little Tommy, and I thought, "there's like 37 things I need to work on", and you're getting input from all over the place. This gives you permission to focus on the 3 or 4 or 5, or however many objectives at a time. That doesn't mean you don't do anything else, but these are the ones you're measuring and focusing in on and working on. And you can finish your day and go to sleep at night knowing that you've done the right amount for this child, the right amount of one on one focus like you have every other child. It gives us permission to not be responsible for everything, just enough to chip away and to make some nice progress.

Sarah: Okay, take home messages. If you go away just remembering these things to start with, we will be so pleased. So an ILP should not be extra paperwork for you, it is a useful living document that is part of, and not in addition to, your work related to the requirements of the NQF and the EYLF. So again, thinking back to our second webinar when we were talking about observations and planning for inclusion, we actually had a think there about what types of documentation do we have to keep? Is there a particular format of observations that we need to keep, there's not. There's nothing in the legal frameworks that say that you need to collect it in this particular way, so you can use this document. This doesn't need to be in addition to the 3 learning stories that you collect for most children each month because that's what we do in our service. Have a think together about why we're collecting this information, how useful it is, what's the use, and reflect with your teams about that as well.

Megan: So many services I go to say ‘we'd love to do your special stuff, but we've already got to do all of this stuff’. And I know that often that message comes from the top, but we give you permission to talk about it as a group, what's useful and what's not, because your EYLF is not prescriptive in how you do this. This could actually be more functional and to the point and more effective even.

Sarah: And that's because the focus that you should have should be on how the child is engaging and participating within your learning environment. So you might have priorities of the family to consider, strategies and things that other professionals are using outside of the service, but it needs to work in your early childhood learning environment. The wording of those short-term objectives is important as well. So the high quality objectives make it so much easier for everyone to know what the focus is, so that we can implement it and review their ILP. Hopefully as you sort of looked through today, that'll become really something in front of mind when you're writing these documents. And sharing the Individual Learning Plan with the educator in your child's next learning environment is a really important part of that transition process. Don't let all of the work, the hard work, you've done with this child and their family stop when they leave you.

Megan: They should be really proud of these documents because I tell you, you're doing better than some schools even. You are doing these very professional, well-written ILPs every 3 or 4 months sometimes, at school they'll be lucky to get that much. But you should definitely be sharing that because it is really important work and very professional. Reflection points, so I think we've got something you can download or a checklist that you can take to a group meeting even, or you can use these points to talk about the content in this webinar particularly. One is at your service, who will be responsible for implementing and reviewing the ILP? Now we always go on about the whole team doing this, definitely, but let's make it one person, or a partnership, be in charge of driving it, making sure that it gets done to make sure you've got the resources out of the cupboard, that we've booked in the review meeting with the family. One or 2 people should drive this to make sure it actually happens. How will you record that the ILP has been done each day? And we change our ideas on this quite often and it's important to keep using something that's user friendly, that you can grab easily, that everyone agrees is an easy way to collect that information. How do you communicate as a team when you've got children that have Individual Learning Plans? If you have a group monthly meeting, do you just quickly review that to make sure everybody in all of the rooms and all the age groups knows what your little person is working on, or what important conversation you had at the door. And how will you communicate that ongoing progress with the child's family? Another great thing about the ILP is you've got a way to communicate and keep everybody focused on the few things that you've chosen. Because we sometimes have families that are themselves overwhelmed with input from different medical professions. But out of all of the hundreds of things that they should be doing, this is a nice way to bring it, filter it down to this 4 or 5 things, keeps everybody on task, and gives us a great way to communicate progress to our families.

Sarah: Thank you for joining us. So, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us at the email address on the screen there. Follow us on our social media. We do share information from a range of places. We share great stories or services that we go out and visit, there are lots of resources on there as well.

Megan: Thanks so much for spending some time with us. Thank you. Bye now.

Webinar 5: Transition to school for children with disabilities and additional needs

This 90-minute webinar will equip early childhood educators with the research-based knowledge and skills needed to provide a successful transition to school for children with disabilities. You will learn about the range of school options for children with disabilities and practical strategies for supporting children, their families, and the receiving schools to be as well prepared as possible for this important milestone.

At the conclusion of this webinar, you will have the knowledge to:

  • describe the transition to school process for children with disability
  • identify the role of early childhood educators in the transition to school process
  • work with others including the family and the receiving school to support the child’s transition to school.


Watch the webinar recording

Dr Sarah Carlon: Hello, and welcome to Transition to School for Children with Disability and Additional Needs.

Megan Cooper: Hey everyone. We are going to begin today in the spirit of reconciliation, STaR acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past, present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today.

Sarah: Thank you. So, who are we? STaR is an acronym. So, it stands for Special Education, Teaching and Training and Research. We believe with the right support, all people can and should learn together, and that lifelong learning is a human right. We work across early years, school-age, and post-school settings to ensure that people with disabilities have access to progressive and meaningful learning. Established in 2001, we've worked with over 600 families and children and over 300 educators across more than 30 inclusive early childhood services.

Megan: I'm going to introduce my learned colleague, Dr. Sarah Carlon. Sarah is an InSpEd (Institute of Special Educators)-certified special educator and the manager of Research and Education here at STaR. She's lectured in special education at the postgraduate university level, and she's also worked in a range of inclusive early childhood settings as an ECT (Early Childhood Teacher) and a centre director. Sarah believes that early childhood educators, like yourself, are the key to successful inclusion and she's passionate about translating that early childhood, early intervention research evidence into your daily practice.

Sarah: And I'm joined by Megan Cooper who is also an InSpEd-certified special educator and she's the manager of Families and Education here at STaR. In her role, she manages the programs which support children and adults with disability to have quality learning plans.

Megan: Today we are going to go through a few things concerning that great big milestone in a child's life, the move off to big school. First, we're going to cover school options for children with disability. Just so you're across that. We're going to talk about the transition process itself. We're going to talk about your role in this whole exercise. We will leave you with some take home messages and we'll end with some reflection points, things that you can talk to your team about and to consider, especially where we are at the moment at the beginning of the year, to plan for those children heading off to school.

Sarah: Okay, so first off, we'll think about school options for children with disability in New South Wales. So, we have 2 school systems operating in New South Wales. The first is government schools or New South Wales public schools, this is the local public school in your area, and then there's the independent school system. So rather than those that are run by the Department of Education (DoE), the independent school system includes things like Catholic systemic schools, other Catholic independent schools, and other religious or secular independent schools. Within both of these systems of schooling, there's actually also different placement types. The one that you're probably most familiar with is the mainstream Kindergarten placement where a child would go to either their local public school or another school and begin Kindergarten with their peers. We also have support classes that are within a mainstream school, and these are smaller classes that are specific for children with disability. They tend to have fewer children in them and more staff for the number of children. And usually in a support class or in a school for specific purposes, which commonly may be known as a specialised school. You tend to have those smaller classes. These schools are just for children with a diagnosed disability, and they again would tend to have those smaller classes, more educators in the class and usually teachers that have more specialised skills and training in the area of working with children with a variety of disabilities, depending on where you go.

Megan: And the specific criteria, for example, in that last season of transition, I had a few educators a bit confused and saying, "Oh, but this child can go to an SSP school or a support class", but it's based on a criteria. So that family, when they've done their full developmental assessment will have a type of, I hate to say it, rating of mild, moderate, profound, severe. So SSPs (Schools for Specific Purposes) tend to accept children with moderate to severe. It's not any child with a disability can get into any of these settings. It's depending on their intellectual disability.

Sarah: And you'd find quite different. There's some maybe specific to types of disability as well. For example, there's some support classes which are sometimes called satellite classes specific for children with autism as the diagnosis. So, it really is up to you to get to know what's available within your local area, which a lot of the time happens just from working with families in your services over the years. But we'll also share some information later in the webinar about where you can find more information.

Megan: We're not saying you've got to store all of this in your head, it's just so you've got that background knowledge to guide families in in the right direction. In the first webinar in the series, we looked at legislation applied to inclusion in early childhood settings and the requirements within your NQF (National Quality Framework) for us to include children with disability and delay in your early childhood settings. So, both that Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Disability Standards for Education 2005 apply not only to early childhood education services but also to schools. So, I'll quickly go over this slide. Those standards require educators, students, parents, and other associates to work together so that students with disability can participate in education, that's an assumption and a right. Consultation helps education providers to understand the needs of the individual students so they can firstly, give the students with disability or delay opportunities and choices that are comparable to other students’ opportunities and choices. And secondly, to identify and address barriers to learning for those students with disability or delay, including people's attitudes and expectations. Everyone here may or may not know that it is actually the law that all children have the right to go to their local public school. It's important for us to have that information, which is confusing, and we've met lots of families over the years that think that they don't have the right to do that. But it's important that you know that that's available and also that there's other options.

Sarah: It's important to have a think now, as Megan said, we don't want you to have to memorise exactly all of this information, we'll share resources for you to use to check in that you have remembered the information correctly at the end of the webinar. But just to give you a general idea, when you are working with families and children transitioning to school, you're probably quite familiar with families coming to you for advice and information about what the process is. It helps for you to understand what the families need to do in terms of enrolling their children in school. And it's slightly different when a child has a disability. So, this is specifically thinking about those New South Wales public school enrolments as well. So, the enrolment process for any child should begin a year before the child is due to start school. If the child has a physical disability that might require modifications to the school such as ramps or widening doors, things like that. It's really important for the families to check in a couple of years before. Two years before they start school tends to be a good time to approach the local school. When we're thinking about children starting school, they can start from 4 years and 6 months in January. So, if they're turning 5 before the 31st of July and all children in New South Wales need to be enrolled in an educational program by the time they're 6 years old. Now you might have heard some talk of exemptions from enrolment that can be applied for when it’s in the best interest of a particular individual child. These are not granted easily so it's really looking at that individual child. So, when we're thinking about an exemption, it might include a delayed start for children who meets specific criteria or partial school attendance with consultation between the family and the school and the centre director.

Megan: It really is the exception, as you say, it's not commonly done but it is available.

Sarah: So they'll look at things like the age of the child, so where a child turns 6 in October or later in the school year, and they're engaged in a full-time preschool education program, then they're more likely to be granted an exemption and they'll also look at things such as whether the child would benefit from the continuation of an Individual Learning Plan in the early years, in the early childhood education environment. So, it may be due to health or learning or social needs or a disability. Be aware that families who may want to apply for an exemption, that is an option, but it's not something that's done routinely. It's important early on to establish links with the child's perspective school, earlier rather than later, for when the child has a disability to enable them to access wellbeing officers within the Department of Education. And this person will assist with the transition to school process and potentially with that school exemption process if needed. In particular, we don't want that extra year at school, the transition to school to be a missed opportunity for the children when they're enrolled in preschool.

Megan: So, we've got the enrolment process, the family needs to contact their local public school, that's as clear as I can make it. And they need to request a meeting with the school counsellor to start that enrolment process. Even if they want their child to go to a different public school, a specialised school, anything at all. The first port of call is always that local public school. The school learning and support team will assist those families to complete an Access Request form to apply for either funding for the mainstream Kindergarten room or a placement in the support class or an SSP. Also, the family can request a placement in a specific setting, not a particular school. So, we meet families often that go, I'm really keen on, River Road Support Unit and that's great, you can't apply for that, you've got to apply for, I want to support unit. There'll be somewhere in that Access Request form that a family can say, “And we'd love to go to River Road”, but it won't be what makes or breaks that decision. It goes to a panel which we'll explain a little bit more about later. The family can request that, that request that placement in that specific setting and you can't apply directly to a specific school. So, if you love River Road, you can't go there directly, all the work needs to go through the local public school and placements are determined by a panel of people that are involved in the area, the principals of schools etc. and based on the best fit to classes available. And then when a placement is offered to a family, they can either accept that offer or pass on that offer and it can go back to panel. This is all probably sounding like jargon, it does to me sometimes when I'm explaining it, but just so you've got some background knowledge, and understanding that it's not as straightforward as a family choosing a school and heading off there. There's a process, that the panel decides what is the best fit for that child and it really is in the best interest of all children including school classes that are already set up. So, if I want my child to go to a support unit and the local support unit is currently full of Year 5 and 6 boys that are really good at maths, and I've got my little girl who's in Kindy, they'll go, even though that's the closest support unit, it's not the right fit in terms of the population. So, they will look for a support unit that's just starting, for example that Kindy/Year 1 group, and offer that child a space there. So, it's all very complicated and I think one of the main things we say to families is build relationships. And it's the same for you as educators. We just want to encourage families to build relationships, talk to people and we need to keep pointing them in the right direction to get the right information.

Sarah: In terms of what the Department of Education and that panel look for, they tend to look at the department's disability criteria, which forms part of that Access Request form. The parents will take along evidence of the child's disability, developmental reports, those sorts of things, as well as that availability of placement in an appropriate specialised support class or school for specific purposes. And even though, as Megan was saying, if your child is placed in a support class, for example, at a school that's not necessarily, the closest one to the family's home, although all families are responsible for transport of their children to and from school, families of children who have a child with a disability might actually be eligible for transport funded through the assisted school travel program.

Megan: You don't need to know all the nitty gritty of that, just that it's available. So, you've got a family stress, we got offered River Road and it's miles away. You can say, "Look, I believe that there's a supported, transport or travel program. Let's find out some more information about it."

Sarah: And those school learning and support teams review the placement of each child at the end of each year. And those reviews, they look at things like the students personalised learning and support, including whether or not the current placement is best at meeting their child's learning and support needs. So that's the other thing to remind families is they're not necessarily locked into this forever. The process for other New South Wales schools, within the independent school system. It really depends, for example, the Catholic school system can be quite a similar process but with those standalone independent schools you do tend to approach the school that you would like to enrol the child in. But quite similar, the parents should be prepared to be able to talk about their child's learning needs, their child's strengths as they go into these meetings with the schools.

Megan: Before we move on, for you as educators, we just want you to be well equipped to support those parents to know that they have rights and some options, but also to guide them towards somebody that can be an advocate for them. Often, I just encourage, find out who people have around them, "You've got a pretty protective sister. Take her along with you just to support you and to help advocate for you and your child", because parents can get very stressed, defensive, emotional, afraid they won't get in. We need to help parents feel confident about how great their child is and how they're going to add wonderful value to any school. So, we just support the parents through this time, which is incredibly stressful. Anyway, lets reflect, just to make sure that we've made sense in all of this.

Sarah: What we'd like you to do now is just have a think, and again, thinking about children within the government, public school system in New South Wales, having a think about whether you think these statements are true or false. So, all children have the right to attend their local public school. If you have a piece of paper with you there, that would be great to mark down if you think true or false for each of these. The local public school is any school in the suburb or town where the child's family lives. Now that might be something that we didn't cover in great detail. We will just describe this now.

Megan: So, what is a local public school? And we'll add that to our list of resources that have some of the critical information for you to have at your fingertips. There is a link on the Department of Education website where you pop in the family's exact address, and it will tell you what catchment school they belong to. So, my brother, for example, was talking about this with his little girl and he said, "Oh we've got 3 public schools equal distance from our home, we can go to any one of them." And I said, "Ah, be careful. You need to pop your address into the DoE website, and it will tell you which one you actually can attend". Because even though you can live right on the border of a catchment, with one school that way and one school the other. But somebody across the road from that person will go to a completely different school. So that's really important information and we'll make sure that you've got the link to that website.

Sarah: So, from that explanation, you've probably worked out whether that's true or false, and you note that down now. The family should approach the school that they would like their child to attend in the first instance to arrange enrolment. A hint here is we're talking about the public school system enrolment process in New South Wales. Next, do you think it is ‘true or false’? That the first step for families is to check which school catchment they live in, which area they live in, which school is their public school. And finally, a child with a disability needs to go to a specialised setting. Do you think that's true or false?

Megan: Okay, let's check, the big reveal. All children have the right to attend their local public school that catchment school that they are assigned to, that’s true. The local public school is any public school in the suburb or town where the child lives, that’s false. You are assigned to one particular one. The family should approach the school that they would like their child to attend to arrange enrolment, not at all. You go, again, to that local public school and as Sarah said, it’s different if we are talking about independent or Catholic, you probably do have to approach them directly, but we're talking about the public system. The first step for family is to check which catchment area they live in, absolutely. This is gold, this information, because often we are working with families who may not have attended school in Australia themselves and don't know the system, or are new to the area. So, this is a really important first step of information for all of our families', disability or otherwise. And moving to the next, a child with a disability needs to go to a specialised setting. The answer there is false. That's not necessarily true. I believe all schools can make modifications and accommodate for children's learning and physical needs.

Sarah: Now that we have a bit of an understanding about the process of school, Megan, talk us through transition.

Megan: Yes, the transition, this is really important for families, educators, ourselves to remember that transition is actually a complex and gradual process. So, it begins long before that first day of school and extends well after that first day of school. So, we often draw a timeline when we start working with our children. If you're at the beginning of the year now, we start preparing the family and those children for their preschool year. All of the tasks that we do, in a sense, are leading towards getting ready for their next educational environment. And then also to ensure a child is transitioning well into that first year of school. It's important to remind families this so they don't panic or make a judgement in the first week or first term if things aren't going well. There's issues because that child is still transitioning, everyone's still settling, we're still learning about each other. So, it's a long process. To extend on that, this slide shows the 3 phases of transition, prior to entering school, this glorious year they're lucky to be with you in their preschool year. Then there's that actual beginning of the first year, that point of change when that child is now sitting in front of a new teacher, and then there's those one or 2 beginning terms of Kindergarten and that that is how the research literature refers to these different phases of transition.

Sarah: What else do we know from research on transition to school? So, research that was investigating the transition to mainstream Kindergarten placements in schools for children with disabilities has generally included questionnaires or surveys or interviews with parents, and the sending and receiving services. So that just means that the researchers have asked the teachers at the early childhood services, at the schools and the families of children with disability of what this was like for them. And then the major findings of these studies we've just summarised here. So, families of preschoolers with disabilities have more concerns about that transition to school than families of typically developing children. And that's probably not too surprising to you. Teachers were more likely to consider the transition to be easy if they also felt that the child was appropriately placed. So, if we're looking at teachers in mainstream Kindergarten classrooms, if that teacher thought, “Yeah, this is where the child belongs, this child does fit in my mainstream classroom”, then they're more likely to then rate that transition process to be an easy process. Skills in communications, social interactions and self-help were regarded by receiving teachers as more important than academic skills. And I can imagine all of you jumping up and down in your chairs right now, you've been trying to tell this to families, I'm sure, for a long time. Just when we are thinking about children, in general, transitioning to school, and also when we are thinking about children specifically with a disability or a developmental delay. Even in those cases, or as well in those cases, the teachers in the classrooms were saying, “What's most important is that the children can communicate, they can interact with their peers and they can look after themselves and their belongings, and we'll teach them the academic things. That's what our job is”. Those receiving teachers were less likely, though, to participate in transition activities like preschool visits and planning meetings. So, this is the actual Kindergarten classroom teachers, and I think is changing a little bit. I think it's improving, particularly around New South Wales. The services that we've been working with, both school services and early childhood services, there’s a lot more, and you're probably finding that there's a lot more, reaching back by the schools, including teachers where possible now, which is great. Collaborative relationships, communication and information exchange are important to successful transitions. And they're really the key to a successful transition, this is one of the strongest points that comes out in the literature and those home/school partnerships are particularly important for that successful transition to school. So, we need to support those families to be able to advocate for their child, but also to build strong working relationships with the school, and the teachers at the school, and other support staff at the school. Just as you foster the relationships between you, your early childhood services and the families that you work with. I think it's easier to say, "Oh, we know your child so well, we know your family so well. You won't get that same level of attention and support once you move through into school." We need to, maybe not, even though we might think that, share that with the families, but rather say "This is going to be great if you build a strong relationship like you have with us here, your child's going to be well supported at school".

Megan: It’s not a time we can work in silos, is it? It's really a time for everyone to pull down the walls and to build relationships. Which I find the early years sector very good at doing. So, let's have a think about what gets in the way of successful transition to school? What are the barriers that get in our way to make all this happen nicely? So, if you just have a think for a second, pause, write down just a couple of barriers for children heading to school with disability and delay, in particular. And then we'll share with you some results that we got when we did this in the live webinar. Okay, so when we did this in the live webinar, you may or may not know that we've got some interactive tools and we build a word cloud. So everyone involved started writing up some words that represented some of the things that got in their way. 'Communication' was a response we received a lot in this activity, it is interesting considering this is the thing that we know is the most important. There can be some 'anxiety', there can be 'lack of understanding of the process', which is why we've been asked to create this webinar and make sure that we all know as much as possible in an ever-changing system. Don't get me wrong, it does shift and change. So, it is hard to keep up with the pathway of enrolment and things. 'People' and 'knowledge' on the same note, 'unsure of what to do'. And you've got things like 'acceptance', which is a real worry and we alluded to the idea of attitudes of their receiving teachers feeling that those children belong and are in the right place. We can build that up from our end by making sure we're exchanging all of the information about the value of that child and what they're great at, and supporting those receiving teachers to know what to do. 'Relationships', 'specialist skills', anything else?

Sarah: 'Time' jumped out for me, and I'm assuming that's to do with the communication and passing information on, and I think a lot of the chat, when we ran this live webinar, was about, “It'd be great to pass all of that information on, but as an early childhood educator I don't always have the time to do that”. So, thinking about ways that we can do that, like embedding it into the transition to school statement that we're giving the schools anyway. But we'll cover that later on in the webinar. Now, we can talk about what the research said. When we look again at the research, the following barriers have been identified. ‘Lack of preparation to meet the child's needs once the child actually enters school’. ‘Insufficient resources and transition supports’, if there's been ‘poor collaboration with families by the receiving school or between the receiving school and the sending early childhood service’, just as I said that then, I recalled a question that came up in one of our live webinars, 'What's a receiving school?'. So, when we are talking about the receiving school, it's just the school where the child will be going, they're receiving that child and the sending early childhood service is the service that's saying goodbye to the child and sending them off on their way. It's not meant to be tricky terminology. So, the ‘teachers at the school were not always identified before the children started school’ which can be a bit of a barrier, and particularly in our public school system, there might be a reason for this. Often public schools, especially if they're in a high growth area where there's lots of new families coming to the area, the school won't know how many classes they will have in their Kindergarten until the first, or second, or third day of the new school year, because there can be several students families turn up, because if you live in that local area, you have the right to send your child to that local public school. It would be great if we knew well beforehand who was coming at the beginning of the year, but the schools have had children turn up or not turn up for enrolment in that first week. So it may be that they thought they were having 6 Kindergarten classes, but they've actually got more children, and an additional teacher will be allocated to that school, or there's 7 classes and they might shuffle a little bit. Again, we find that schools tend to, especially when if they are having children with disability or delay that's been identified beforehand, they do try, as best as possible, to place children into a classroom and let the families know that this will be your child's teacher. But things happen where that's sometimes that's not possible.

Megan: And we can only try, we can indicate, particularly I think, with children with high anxiety, to say it would be really beneficial if we could nail this down before the child starts. But I understand that schools sometimes can't, like you said.

Sarah: And the other thing there which will not be surprising to anyone and came up in terms of communication is that ‘poor information sharing’ is a real barrier to successful transition. Evidence suggests that children who have a positive start to school are likely to engage well and to experience ongoing academic and social success. So that transition, I'm not saying if it's bumpy then the children are doomed to not have a successful social life or academic life at school. But it sets them up really well if they do have as smooth a transition as possible.

Megan: This feels to me like the whole clincher, this is why transition is a big deal. Why do we always bang on about it? Especially for children with developmental delay of any sort this is exactly the reason. If we start off well, it tends to continue going well. So, it's really worth the effort.

Sarah: And you play a huge role in this. So, your role as early childhood educators is a significant one. Why are you so important in the lives of these children and their families? You are a professional with knowledge of child development, so you know where these children are at, you've built a relationship with the families over time. So even starting to think now, you might think, “Oh yeah, that's right because you did say just before, that part of our role is supporting those families to build relationships with the school because that's what's going to make this transition successful. I've already got that relationship, that's great”. You have knowledge of individual children and their development. So, within the group. You have, no doubt, been working on developing skills for school for the whole year, the whole preschool year, and a lot of the time longer if you've had children for more than one year at your service. So, you've been working on all those sorts of skills we’ve been talking about with skills for school, we'll talk about that more a little bit later, but you can probably guess we're not talking about those academic skills necessarily. You can share knowledge about the process of transition. So, you've played this webinar, you want to learn about that process of transition. You understand now that transition is not just that first day of school, one switchover, that's it. And you might have developed a relationship with local schools, as well. That's the other thing that's really been exciting to us recently, as we go out into services, is how many of the early childhood services that we've seen who have reached out and developed those relationships with local schools. So they had that extra knowledge.

Megan: We're at that point of really resetting all of that, aren't we, as the last 3 years have come out of lockdowns and things. That last year, the end of 2022, was the first season that we had lots of orientations and visits and that all really reignited and I think it was particularly positive. I think we're off to a great start. It can be easy to think that, as early childhood educators, that our role in transition is just to get the child ready for school. And of course, we do that to some degree, but school readiness is also not just about getting that child ready. It's much more important to ensure that the other adults around that child's life are prepared to support the transition. And we've had a few examples of stories there that we'll flesh out as well. So, a huge part of our role is supporting families so that they're ready for the transition. The families are the experts about their child and are critical to supporting that child's transition to school. And as Sarah mentioned, we need to frame this whole thing positively, and I've seen some adorable directors and educators saying very well-meaning things that probably weren't as helpful as they thought. Things like, "Oh, they'll never love that child as much as we do." We've really got to say things like, "We learnt to love and support and enjoy your child, and so will their next environment." We've got to give that family strength and courage because, I think particularly, with our children with disability or delay, parents get very dependent on us and very reluctant to shift. So, we can't enable that co-dependency. We're building resilient families to move on and take the rest of their journey. So, keep that in mind. It is also vital to support the schools to be ready for the child in the same way. Very positively, with lots of information, and we'll drill down into this wonderful new tool that we've got on that transition summary. Why is it important to get those schools ready? Because we make sure that they are flexible, adaptable, that they're responsive to individual children who we are introducing. They actively facilitate that family engagement, and they start connecting and reaching out and building their own relationship with our families. And we hope, and encourage, and foster that idea that they're connecting respectfully and positively with those early childhood settings and the broader community. Like I said, in that last season of transition, we saw this happen a lot more and we just have to keep positively reinforcing this and requesting receiving schools to come out and have a play with our child or meet them in the real world. So, if we keep being open and welcoming to those visits they're more likely to happen. How might you collaborate with the therapist? So, some of you may be working with children that attract a therapist or a specialist or medical specialist working with that child. We need to also make sure that their goals and specialty and specific ideas are included in that plan as we hand our children off.

Sarah: I think also, with the supporting professionals, have a talk to see if they have time to go and support the child in their transition visits to school. For example, if they're working with a special educator, a particular occupational speech pathologist and they say, "I've got this time, I can go and support”, so talking to them about what works well in your early childhood service that they can pass that information onto school and also feedback to you what went well during those visits as well. There's no point in you turning up to support with some of those extra visits to school if you've also got 3 other professionals, with too many adults in the room, it would certainly be overkill, so working on how you can divide and conquer, but also be sending the same message to the schools. As you know, as educators yourself, if you've got even different parents telling you different things, it can be really tricky to work out what's what. But why is collaboration so important? It's not a foreign concept to you, we know, as early childhood educators because the National Quality Framework emphasises partnerships as the key to supporting children's access and participation in your early childhood programs. This is particularly important as well during transition. So collaborative practice is also highlighted in 2 of the practices of the EYLF (Early Year Learning Framework). The practice of holistic approaches, where educators recognise the connections between children, families, communities and the importance of reciprocal relationships and partnerships for learning. And also, the practice of continuity of learning through transitions. So having a think there about that access and participation point, you can see the quote up there on the slide. And also, as we said, when we looked at that research, collaborative relationships, communication and information exchange are really important to successful transitions. So, collaboration is key, because our relationships are at the core of positive transition to school. And when families, schools and communities work together in positive and collaborative ways, that's where a child's capacity to achieve their learning potential is significantly enhanced.

Megan: That’s right, these are things that are not foreign to you as educators. Transition activities. So, these are things that happen prior to entering school, in that year before school. So, there can be an element of educator preparation, when you are gathering developmental information about the child which is exactly what you're doing now. Understanding that transition process and the timeline, know where to access resources to share with families and like Sarah said, we will support you there with a tip sheet. Agree to being contactable if the school has questions, and I'm sure that's pretty straightforward. School preparation involves providing the school with the information they need to modify and adapt processes, facilities, equipment for the child. And again, a big part of that will be handing on that transition statement which is getting easier, and I know it's been a bumpy first trial of that, but hopefully in the beginning of Term 1 in 2023 we'll see some good outcomes from some successful exchange of information.

Sarah: What else can you do in terms of that first phase of transition before the children enter school? We can prepare the children. So, skill development will be based on an Individual Learning Plan, if a child has been identified as having a developmental delay or disability, and that learning is ongoing all year. What you tend to do in that year before school specifically is focus in, and hone in on, working towards skills that are going to be useful in the school environment. So, working on the communication skills and a whole heap of other skills that are going to help them to be as independent as possible and to be able to communicate with their peers and their educator at school. Family preparation involves providing the families with information to understand the process of transition. To understand the school options. You don't need to know the process in and out, you just need to know where you can find information, as Megan said, it is not set in stone, these processes do develop and change over time. Slight tweaks may be made, understanding though the general enrolment process and then knowing where to send them for the information that's up to date, is really important so that they understand the steps involved and where on the timeline of transitioning their child to school they are. And also providing families with links to resources. As I said, you don't need to remember it all. And even if you did and told the family, it's much more useful for them to have something that they can hold in their hands or a link on screen that they can go to that's going to be up to date, and that they can find that later. We'll share some information on this, there's actually a tip sheet you can download with a lot of links.

Megan: What do you think are the 3 or 4 most important skills for children as they begin the new year in Kindergarten? In your opinion, your professional opinion from years of doing this, some of you. What are the most important skills that they need as they move into Kindergarten? We'll pause there, while you write a few of those down, and then we'll share with you what we got from another session. Okay, so this is what popped up in our word cloud. So, the glaring obvious there are 'self-help skills'. Funny, I chat with a bunch of parents who went through last year and I said, “What surprised you? What did you find that your child needed most?”. And most of them said, "Oh those independent skills of looking after belongings, cleaning your nose, going to the toilet", it really went back to those self-help skills and the ability for a child to move about confidently in their day and know how to help themselves. We've got there also in in larger writing, 'social skills', 'communication', 'independence', 'confidence', 'emotional regulation'. Well, a lot around the 'self help', which is great. 'Taking turns', 'waiting for turns'.

Sarah: There are ‘fine motor’, 'gross motor', 'toilet', 'resilience'. It's quite similar to what Kindergarten teachers have reported in research, this is an Australian study, it is going back to 2000, but we've found that in the services we've worked with, not much has changed in terms of what teachers are looking for since then. So, when Kindergarten teachers were asked to rank the skills that were most important for those children transitioning into their classrooms, these were mainstream Kindergarten teachers that were receiving children with a disability or developmental delay, you can see the ones that they ranked as most important. They related to self-help skills, toileting to communication and the ability to follow directions or procedures and to play with their peers. So, in the next part of the webinar now, we are going to think about how we can support children to build some of these skills in your early childhood environment. So, as I said before, when we are thinking about what we're doing in preparing the child for school, we would tend to be focusing on these sorts of things in a child's Individual Learning Plan. And it's actually what you're likely to be used to be working on for most of the children in your group. So, a lot of these things, even though we're focusing today on children with a disability or developmental delay, are going to be some useful tips for how you might support these skills in general for all of your preschool aged children.

Megan: We'll drill down into a few of these and just quickly remind you of some tricks and tips that help develop these skills. So, using the bathroom independently is a big one, I mean this is just for all children, this has to happen. So, things that we can do to make sure that we've got this well on track the year before school is to collaborate with the family. The strategies we'll be using will probably link closely to the ILP, the Individual Learning Plan of that child, and there will be relevant support needs tailored to that individual child on things like how much prompting or how much support is needed. Always with the idea that we are going to fade that out as the year goes on and that the child can do more and more of that task on their own. Consult with the therapist, if there's like a specific issue you might have access to physio, OTs (occupational therapists) should be well versed at supporting children to learn all of the steps involved in toileting independently. And we've had a few children over the years that do have quite serious medical problems that might need the support of like a continence clinic as well. But again, good for you to know there are some specialists that you can reach out to there if you are not making the progress that you hope with that child. We're going to continue to monitor that progress through the year and if the child isn't able to toilet train prior to school, we start working with the school early to ensure that those plans are in place and to make sure that they can meet the child's needs. So, another thing that we usually say with this checklist is this is not the criteria that child can or can't go to school if they have or haven't achieved these things. It's okay that a child hasn't achieved these things, especially a child with a disability or a physical or developmental delay, we just need to make sure that child is supported correctly with dignity, with all the right things in place and we need to make sure that happens at the end of the year so it's all set up ready for day one. Using visuals is probably a classic thing that you've already got in place for children that need that support to go through all the steps of the sequences and the visuals are a great way to pull back on the physical and all those verbal prompts, commenting, "Tommy, next, next, next, next you can just go, oh number one. And then...", and you can just refer to that chart. It just peels back that heavier handed prompting. The classic thing there in terms of your regular routine and every other child, is expect that child to participate and use those lovely reinforces. Don't be afraid of using reinforces because they're very easy to fade out and children often don't need them for that long. And I've got a little friend at the moment that is really Lightning McQueen and I just simply cut out a bunch of little cars, little red cars, and he sticks that on a chart every time he goes off to the toilet. And it was only a couple weeks before I faded that out and we didn't need it anymore. But use what's required to get this because this is an incredibly critical skill. Practice daily, that goes with that saying, teaching the whole routine, and using the words that work for that child as well. Other things that we usually suggest to families as they're getting ready is to try going to the bathroom in different locations to generalise that learning, and to solidify it, because of course, you go off to school and there's a door you've got to close and there might be some extra steps.

Sarah: Thinking about how the school environment and toilets might be quite different to your own environment. You can try to make it as similar as possible, but a lot of services don't have locking doors and things, so sharing that with the families. When you're out at the shopping centre, let the child have a turn of actually locking the door. Identifying the symbols on the doors, such as the girls and boys toilets.

Megan: And certainly, encourage the family and the school, that any visit that that child has to their new school, make sure you fit in a practice to the toilet because those visits get so overwhelming with activities and things and parents moving around with their children. Just remind everybody involved to fit in that visit. They should try and get a chance to visit the bathrooms at least once or twice.

Sarah: The next thing that's going to be useful is separating from their parent or carer. So here preparation is really important. We want to practice the school routine, so encouraging waving at the gate, carrying and unpacking the backpack. Feedback that we have, as tricky as that time when we had a lot of lockdowns and things over COVID was, there were lot of services that were receiving their children at the gate or in the foyer of the room, which had positives and negatives, but for those children transitioning to school the next year, that was actually really positive. They got used to actually saying goodbye to their parent at that point rather than having them coming into the classroom, which at most schools you're not going to have parents coming into the classroom as you would in an early childhood setting. So encouraging all of that. We've worked with services in the past, and seen services in the past, where for the last few months of the year for children that are going off to school, they actually do have a school drop system where they are dropping for those particular children. There's an educator that will come and meet them in the foyer, as opposed to the parents coming into the classroom. So just practicing as much as possible what that will be like and talking about it. You can suggest and support possible friendships as well. So, having peers and buddies. So, if you know that children, we often find out which schools children are going to, and again, this is something that services are getting really good at doing with collecting lists of which of the local schools children going to, and supporting those friendships. If you have families that have come to your services over the years, "Rowan's big brother goes to that school too". So, when Rowan's big brother comes to pick Rowan up, even though Rowan's not going to school next year, he's going the year after, we'll get him to come and say hello to Tommy so that they know each other. There's a lot of books and social stories about that transition to school and saying goodbye. The schools are getting really good at providing these as well. So, the school will often provide, at those transition visits, a book about getting ready for school, what happens in the morning, and when I go to school, where I'll line up at the school, where I'll say goodbye to mum or dad, and orientation visits where possible, which as Megan said, one of the most exciting things we found the over the last year is that we are getting back into that. So, being supported by the educator, early childhood educator or school teachers and family members, sometimes children that have particular difficulty with that separation from a parent or carer might have a couple of extra visits, in addition to the regular visits, where everybody goes to those regular orientations. And you might have a plan where there is an adult that will actually meet and greet the child, which is an adult at the school there. If there's a really significant case of separation anxiety, which often during those orientation visits, that's when you'll try to establish that consistent routine so that the child knows what to expect. As educators, yourselves working with children, if you within your own service, try to have a pretty consistent routine, so that the children can practice. So for example, “I know that sometimes we're in the blue room when we come in the mornings, but sometimes we'll be outside, or sometimes we might be in the yellow room”, if you try and have a consistent routine, and practicing what the children need to do with their belongings when they come in, share that information with the families so that they get used to that, and then pass that on to the schools as well.

Megan: A few things that people have tried over the years is if you've got one parent who's particularly difficult for a child to separate from, and have a change such as another family member or parent or a different routine, like Sarah said, prepare for a serious flare up. Unfortunately, I mean, I don't like to tell families this, but let's face it we're very likely to take a backward step for want of a better word, with lots of skills that you'll build up in those children, and you'll get these lovely confident feelings, and you're like, “Woo, we've done it, these kids are ready”, and they'll go off to school and they'll really have this big flare up or setback. What's a great antidote to that in a sense is your evidence and proof that you've conquered it before and that it will be conquered again. It's a nice thing to point out to the family. “Remember at the beginning of the year, oh my goodness, he was crying for 20 minutes straight”, you've collected your data. You got that all the way down to 30 seconds and now he's confident, Tommy, not a care in the world. And he might sit right back to crying for 2 or 3 hours in the morning, but you tell the school and the family, “We've done this before and we're going to do it again, it will decrease”. So, it's great to have that evidence that you've recovered from this before. It will happen again. But for families, I do try to say them, “Brace yourself for a flare up”.

Sarah: And it's funny, some of our educators have completely forgotten that that's what had occurred at the beginning of the year. And you might then re-establish all those things that worked. You might go back to using the social story, we'll swap mum out for dad or grandma or someone else. So okay mum, you don't get to go near the joint. I've said that to many mothers, “Dad, your job is to drop off because dad's better at high 5 buddy, off you go, gone”. And it's just a quicker separation. So, we might have to re-establish all those things that have worked in the past. So, that's all the great stuff to share with the school as well. They're funny little students that we work with aren't they? They keep changing and shifting. All right, so now we've got, following instructions. So of course, as you know, school children are expected to follow instructions given by a teacher, just one teacher without other people to help follow that up. So, we need to give them lots of practice at doing that within your setting. And of course, I suppose it's similar, isn't it, Sarah? The preschool room and the school room, they're noisy and chaotic and it can be overwhelming. So, I guess the kids get used to that, but it's probably more, I find that when you're taking instruction from just the one teacher. One of the things I like to do is to start demonstrating and really making the point about tuning into the teacher, and I start saying, I know we're educators or have different names, but I start using, "Oh, better listen to the teacher", or "Let's check in with the teacher", or "Ask the teacher" or start saying that. Because we want to start training them to understand that they've got to check in with that one person. So, a lot of tuning into the teacher that you can model, "Oh, I heard, miss so and so said it's time to pack away. We better listen to the teacher, time to pack away”. So doing a bit of that, practicing classroom directions, which I'm sure that you are all very much across, classic things like lining up, bags away and hat on and other things that are more environment specific.

Sarah: It might be putting a lot of putting belongings away where they belong.

Megan: That's right and then different setups. You might have tubs or trays or hooks and all of that sort of thing using prompts. So, all of those strategies, what we're thinking all the time is trying to lay it back off, so that once we've got that happening, it’s time to pull it back. So, we're not expecting one teacher to be able to do this for this big classroom as well. But I like prompts using lots of gestures and of course, visuals, and I like to point to visuals. Don't forget using those visuals to pre-warn the children. Don't forget these are the things that are going to happen. And then when it's all in motion, you can just refer back to those visuals as well. Following up, "Oh, I heard, Ms. Smith mentioned this and that. Let's make sure that we've done this and that". So, keeping those expectations up that that child, whatever their ability, can complete the task. They might just need a little bit more time, but keeping the expectation high that they do follow through with the instruction they've been given. One of my favourite survival strategies for our children going into big mainstream settings, is to when in doubt if they haven't comprehended the question or there were too many instructions or it's too noisy, take a look around and see what your friends are doing. And if all of your friends are packing the toys away, let's do the same, to tune into where they are. All your friends are lining up at the door, let's imitate those friends, doing the right thing. And of course, another thing you can do, and you can turn this into a bit of a game as well, building that instruction complexity. When you think about the nitty gritty of following instruction, a lot is happening. First of all, you've got to hear what was said. You've got to know that what was said was meant for you. You've got to comprehend what needs to be done. And then when there's a few layers, you've got to remember all those things in some sort of order. So, don't underestimate how hard it is for a lot of our kids to follow a string of instructions. One of my favourite things to do is to turn it into a game. I saw it actually out at a school recently. A child stands up at the front of the group and goes, "Okay, Vanessa's going to touch her toes, point to something red and rub her tummy", and let's see if she can remember those things and do them in order. You can do that like a fun game.

Sarah: The only thing, as you were talking there, Megan, I was thinking it is important to practice things like lining up in those typical classroom directions. But we have seen in some cases, that taken to the extreme, where children have to stand there for what we would think is way, way too long. It's not even, we don't want children standing for minutes, at all. We'll often practice that lining up at the door and it might be that you've got 3 people in the line there that are ready with their hats on to go outside. Even though someone else has got another small group of children waiting to have their sunscreen on. An educator can go outside with those 3 that have lined up. You don't need to have children waiting for no reason, or you can do something exciting with them while they're waiting. “Fantastic, you've lined up, we can sing one of your favourite songs”. We do not need to have children waiting for huge amounts of time, there's no way that we're advocating for that. But that doesn't mean that you can't practice these things that they're going to be expected to do at school. Do simple directions like line up.

Megan: I'm often in 2 minds about this, because I keep thinking as you were talking, they've got so much time at school to be bored. There's a lot of downtime, there's a lot of boring stuff. Assemblies, have you seen an assembly? They stand there and I think this is so boring for the children, they've got to wait. They can do all that next year. So, enjoy this wonderful early childhood environment they've got with you this year. But just chip away those little practices. I think there's a lot to be said for just using the vocabulary. So, they are familiar requests, like you said, we can scale it down to what's sensible for our lovely early childhood environments. We're not into torturing children.

Sarah: Okay, and speaking of, we're going to have them following rules and procedures. But what we mean is following really simple rules and procedures in the classroom with reminders, is going to set them up for being ready for that next environment. So, things like, when we're talking about rules that you can practice, it's things like wear a hat outside to play, that's something that you all do anyway, you might start using that school type terminology of 'no hat, no play'. "You can't play in the sunshine if you don't have your hat on, you have to play in the shade". "If you want to play in the sunshine, no hat, no play, in the sun, hat on", "Sitting down to eat". A lot of these are around safety. It might be rules around, “Okay, we need to line up”, as I said, not for 5 minutes, but lining up before we go somewhere. Putting resources away. So practicing the pack away, and practicing, "When I come back inside, where does my hat go?", "Where does my water bottle go when I come in the morning?", and a lot of the time it's bag in the locker and water bottle on the trolley, and the children, if you are practicing these rules that your water bottle when you're finished goes back on the trolley, that's where we keep it when we're at preschool. The children will get to know this very quickly. And it's just really increasing their ability to increase their independence, which is what we want going off to school. There are other procedures you can practice that tend to be those longer things. So, as I said, not just that, the rule is my water bottle goes on the trolley if I'm not drinking, it's “When I come in in the morning, I unpack my bag. So I get take my bag off my shoulders, get my water bottle out, my bag goes in the locker and my water bottle on the trolley”, and putting their art away in their bags when they've finished the drawing. You can say, "Okay, that's great. You can fold it in half and put it in your bag" or maybe that they put it in a particular tray. The steps in the hand washing process. So, there's those procedures where it's more than one thing they need to do in a sequence and you might just start it with one and support through. And there’s lots of ways you can prompt children through those processes. You can often use visual schedules which are useful with this, particularly when it is not just reliant on the one educator to support them. But it may be that it's the family members are coming in the morning and whenever grandma comes in, she'll carry the bag and do it all for the child. If we have a visual saying “When I arrive, I take my water bottle out, then I do this”, then it's not the educator necessarily telling the child or their family member, but this piece of paper is telling grandma, “No, Tommy's expected to do that”. So, practice consistently, as I said, social stories, there you have it there. Those sequences and things that can tell are most useful for telling all of the adults around the child what we're expecting, as well as the child, and reinforce appropriate behaviour. So lots and lots of positive praise. It might be a natural reinforcer that, "Oh wow, you've lined up already. Miss Megan's going to take, Tommy and Joey and Aju outside now because they're already lined up." "Look Sarah has her hat on. She can go outside too." I find those natural reinforcers are often just as useful as some of the others that we can use.

Megan: Now, the next one is a funny one. Playing in a small group cooperatively without injury to anyone. This can be tricky because of course the environment in school is so different to what we have. They don't have the same level of supervision. And then children are thrown out, in January/February, to a great big, hot asphalt, boring playground. So, they're not as accommodated for, although that is improving, and Kindergarten playgrounds are getting a lot better at offering more activities for children to entertain themselves with. On the whole, kids are expected to entertain themselves so we're going to start teaching them to be able to do that. So indoors, in the first year of Kindy, often at the end of a hot summer day, the teacher might work with somebody one on one or catch up on things and say to the Kindy class, go on the floor and play on the mat. So, they've got to go and find an activity and play alongside without bopping someone on the head with their train or something. So, we've got really got to offer them or explore how that goes. If you release a few kids, go, and find something and watch how it goes without too much adult intervention to see how that's going and how we can work towards improving that skill. That might be one of your ILP goals that a child can do some very basic cooperative play with just a small group of 2 or 3. Again, all this information is really important to hand over to the receiving teacher to say, "Look, James can cope with the other children, but only 2 is enough for him. So, it's a bigger group he'll get overwhelmed and we're more likely to slide into some troubles”. In the outdoors, I feel like I just want to cut to the chase here. We've got to teach the kids, like I said, to entertain themselves. This is a great time to start teaching them those schoolyard games. And in the live session we said to everyone, put in the chat your favourite outdoor game and that was actually really good. I wish we captured that because there are a lot there that I've forgotten about. ‘What's the time Mr. Wolf’ or ‘hide and seek’, start helping them find some fun and entertainment that they can play with a small group of children. Consider all those different levels of play. Some children will for many, many years much prefer their own play, whether it's pretend play or with the trains or what have you on their own. And that is okay, but that's just information that we'll send on to school to explain that little Levi's really unlikely, or will find the other children too close, that will be challenging for quite some time. So just make sure that that's available to him, and that he can do that. Of course, we want to push kids through these levels of play, but at the end of the day we've got to meet them where they're at. Of course, then you've got some kids that can cope with the whole room full of children being right around them, but they won't be very cooperative. Take some time to think about in your team if you're working with a particular child and observe what level of play we're up to and just see what we can do, what strategies we can put in now to increase that sophistication in their play so they're ready for their next environment. Like I said, practicing the schoolyard games and including peers of course, as usual. One of our top tip or a great strategy, with a lot of evidence behind is that it's very useful to connect with peers or use peers to support children to initiate and engage in play. Peers can be way cooler than we are. So start tapping into those bigger kids and helping those kids to include our children or to initiate, "Hey come and play with us. We're doing this. Do you want to join us?". Just to get all that practice happening.

Sarah: That's all we're going to say at the moment about that work on preparing the child for school in that year before school, preparing the child for that transition. Because if you remember back, and hopefully you've taken this away already, it's not just about preparing the child, it is actually much more important for successful transition to prepare the family. So, we need to support families to understand the process, to be patient with transition, to know that it's going to be bumpy, there will be ups and downs, and it takes a long time. We want to encourage them to be proactive by establishing communication channels and boundaries with the school and with the educator. Know that the communication system might be different when you move off to school, but you can still build a really strong relationship with your child's classroom teacher and other supporting staff at the school. So, this really needs to start early. We need to start giving these messages to families early. We need to acknowledge that families are absolutely experts about their child and they're critical to supporting that child's transition to school. We are not with these children for their whole lives. We see them in our educational settings for this snapshot of a year or a few years of their life. But we need to prepare the families for the new environment where the expectations around communication are going to be different. Prompt them to start thinking about what's going to work for their family, for the school and for the classroom teacher.

Megan: Again, fine line there isn't it? The fragility of the space that some families are in. We need to be gentle with families but at the same time we want to build resilient families that are tough, that can advocate for their child, that are proud of their child. So, we've got to build them up psychologically that your kid is cool, they've got a lot to offer the world, let's get out there and give them a good school experience. So, we're up to thinking and reflecting.

Sarah: Yes, because we have a lot of information about transition to school to share. But how do we do that?

Megan: That’s right. So have a think now about how you do share information about transition to school with families. How do you share information about transition to school with families? Write a few things down that you do in your service and then we'll share with you what came up in those live webinars.

Sarah: Okay, so we had lots of different ways to share information, which is good because they might help you to think a little bit outside the box. So those formals things like the 'face to face information nights', 'conversations' that you have. So, you can see here the responses were from 2 different sessions we ran. 'Meetings', you might send 'emails' particularly to the one group of families with children that are transitioning to school the following year, using things like your 'apps' like Storypark to send that information, there’s also 'verbal', and 'conversations'. Lots of 'face to face conversations', and 'emailing' resources.

Megan: 'Posters' about school open days, they're really handy, a resource sheet is good to have with the information about local schools, public, independent, special schools, anything in your area to let parents know that they can go along and visit or register to see that.

Sarah: And I think the other thing is to remember that it's okay if a parent asks you if you know something or if you know information and you're not quite sure yet, it’s okay to say, "I'm not sure where we're at the moment, but I can find out for you" or "I can if I can find some resources" and then referring back to those resources". So, you don't need to have all of the answers straight away, but you can let the families know that you'll find out.

Megan: Yeah, and like I said, we've got that wonderful sheet that we'll share with you because each day we find something new so we're trying to keep across it all. So, transition to school statement. This brought up a lot of controversy in the live session.

Sarah: We have got to get all that information to the school. We keep saying we've got to share the information with the school, we've got to share the information. This is an easy way to do it.

Megan: There was a grumble over the years that we went to the effort of filling this out and we weren't sure if the receiving school ever read it or the teacher who had that child ever got to lay eyes on it. So, this situation has improved dramatically from the end of last year. It became a digital statement that is popped into that portal and available to a receiving teacher straightaway. So, my hopes are high for this process, and I believe this will be a big turnaround. So, in that live webinar, there was a few concerns about the time it takes to fill this out. I went to visit a service and they said actually quite the opposite, that they had already had their own developmental recordings and things done under the different EYLF headings. And they tend to copy and paste a lot of it across to this statement, adding in a little bit of the nuances or the individuality for each child. They even uploaded their version of the ILP. There's also embedded now an easy way to get parents’ permission to share that as well. So, I've got high hopes for this statement and I'm sure that this is a big positive turnaround. One place, and you don't have to do them all on one day or all at one time. You can chip away at them, especially in that last term, and work together as a team to do them. I don't think they have to be as time consuming as people are spending on them. They should be fun. You should be proud of your work, you're professionals. You're going to hand over to this receiving school, all of your wisdom, the best of your ability and be available for them to reach out to. So, I've got a very good feeling about this.

Sarah: It’s just that that's the place where, when we've been talking about, “Take a note of the strategies you're using”. If you use a visual that works, all these things where we've said, “Make sure you tell the school”, that's where you put all of those strategies, the keywords, the copies of the visuals, the things that have really worked. And sometimes things that haven't worked can be useful as well. So that it's efficient and the school teacher's not going to be trying things with trial and error, when there's something that they could try that's worked really well in your service. Okay, we have been focusing for the majority of the webinar today on this part of transition. The first part, which is the time before the year before the child starts school. And that's because a big part of your role in the transition is information sharing in that year before the child starts school. But that's only the first phase of transition. If you remember back to the beginning of the webinar, when we looked at that research on transition, there are 3 phases. The second phase is the point of change. So, we've got our little orange arrow here, if you've got a bit of a timeline, which is the beginning of the school year. So, this is the middle of the transition process. Transition is not complete when the child starts school. Information sharing and collaboration needs to continue over here. It would tend to, in terms of the families and the child, the school would have a lot more involvement now, whereas your early childhood education and care service did earlier, but the transition's not complete. At this stage, what we really want you to do is remind the parents that the transition is a long process, and it will continue throughout the school year.

Megan: So in the first 2 terms of Kindergarten, of course, you'll be still available to communicate with the teacher, if that's necessary. We can appoint the attention to the child's ILP to discuss those successful evidence-based strategies. Discuss the elements of safety. This is really important. Anything that you've done in the past that you know will support that child to be in the right place, to make very clear that that child needs to learn boundaries that they can move around in, and share any equipment individualised to that child, resource ideas, visual support that you know will work a treat, even if you've outgrown them in your setting. Like I said, we might need to go back and be a little bit heavier handed with support at the beginning of a big transition like this. And again, as Sarah said, remind that family that that transition is a long process. Listen to their concerns. Support them, fill them with the idea, it’s very easy sometimes in my head I'm like, “We told them that or they should be doing that”, but we've really always got to have that front, that look, that these guys are going to get the hang of it. They're professionals like we are, because that gossiping or politics is really detrimental to those relationships. And remembering that the relationships are key. We can acknowledge how a family might be feeling about any hiccups or bumps, but we've got to support them psychologically that we're going to move forward and progress will be made, we'll get there, we believe in you, we believe in the child and we believe in those teachers. So, it's all a little bit tricky at times, but we have to give everyone the confidence that we will actually get there.

Sarah: And to wrap up today, we actually wanted you to take a step back and have a think about that bigger picture, and the difference that your role in supporting transition, supporting the whole family through the transition to school, particularly if the child has a disability or developmental delay, what difference can it make to the families? So, these are some little comments that we've collected over the years, when families of children that have transitioned off to school have reflected on what their early childhood educators did for them. So, we've got our parents saying that the early childhood educators were really knowledgeable about the transition process and supported me to understand all of the steps. So that's what they found most valuable. The educators took initiative to complete the required forms. So, the parents and families do, even though that transition to school statement may take your ages, they do know that this is important. They met with the school teachers and shared their knowledge of my daughter. The preschool advocated for my daughter to attend the local school with her siblings encouraging her to be part of the local community. We see her friendships at the local parks and shops. Sometimes it is listening to the family and putting your judgement aside that maybe you thought, “Oh no, this child has a disability. They should go to a specialised setting”. Working with the family it was really important for this family that their children all went to the same school. Then giving the school the confidence that this can be done in an educational setting. You've been doing it for, in this case they've been doing it for years, including her alongside the peers from her local community.

Megan: Other things that families we worked with said, “The preschool teachers are open, they're honest about some of the challenges we might face. And they were by my side through that process, I felt supported”. I mean we are not all fairyland, Disney, wonderland, “Oh they'll be great. They'll be great”. Yes, and like I said, I do like to point out we might have a setback. It could get trickier before it gets easier. Brace yourself for that. I say to parents, “They've got to learn to ride the waves of the whole thing, and it could be tricky but we believe in you and your child”. Another parent said her thrill of this whole procedure was that the daughter was invited to birthday parties early in the year. And that was the big thrill for her was the real evidence that child belonged to her new community of a classroom and that the early childhood educators connected, with the last family there, with the local families going to the same school. They even encouraged I think a little play date at the local park before they went off to school. So that family and child felt supported by their new community and they could, say hi to people when they first walked through the door. As well as the regular stuff you do to get the child ready, there's lots of psychological support that you can do, and what I like about it is the focus is still around being, becoming and belonging. It's still very much you at the centre of this. Your philosophy and psychology will move forward with these families and the children's learning.

Sarah: Okay, as promised, you can download the PDF here with some useful resources. So, we've got links to information that's really, really useful. Particularly the first link there on the Department of Education website. The parent can hop in there, pop in their child's birthdate and they'll actually pull up a timeline of all the things they need to do. So, as we said before, it's important for you to have your head around the process, but this is somewhere where you can send them. The second link is that New South Wales Public School Finder. So, you can pop your address in and tell you which is your local public school for the families. And then information for parents about just inclusive learning within the Department of Education. We've got some general links to information that are some reliable resources that are written well for parents and others about transition to school. So, the transition to school resource website that actually has different sections, has sections for families, and it has a section for early childhood educators. So, we encourage you to jump on there and have a look at the extra information provided there as well. The Raising Children Network website provides really accurate information written in plain language for families to access. There's a couple of links there around advocacy as well, so places where parents can look for support in advocating for their child and how they might do that. And then on the second page we have a section for you to sit down with your colleagues and note down all those local resources or links to resources that you've used in the past, you might even want to note down, “We've got that handout that we keep photocopying and giving to parents about particular thing because it's worked really well”. It might be the name of a particular support service. It might be a contact at a particular local school that's really good that will come and speak to the families at all of those parent information nights. It's up to you what you include there but just handy to have everything in one spot.

Megan: One place. It's great. And if everyone knows where it is, it’s like, “Oh, hang on a second, I know the answer to that”. Grab it from the pin board and they've got it. It's a great tool, and again, we were saying before we started this, it's evidence that you can use for your QIP (Quality Improvement Plan). To show all that you're doing to support your families as they transition to school. So, we'll leave you now with some take home messages. We hope this is what you've extracted from this somewhat complex subject in a sense. Children who have a positive transition and start to school are really likely to engage well and experience ongoing academic and social success. That's why, how we start is so important. Collaboration with those receiving schools and information sharing is absolutely key to success for our children moving on. And school readiness is not just about your job of getting the child ready. Your job is much bigger than that. You're a counselling service of sorts. Even you're a cheerleader. You're many things to boost this child and their family on their way. And of course, you play a very big role in that idea of children belonging to their next community and advocating for their health and happiness.

Sarah: Okay, and some reflection points that you might want to go away and think about yourself or with your teams. Again, it could be useful in terms of your reflective practice and critical reflection that you undertake in a whole heap of areas, as part of quality improvement, but specific to this particular one you might think about, how can we further advocate for the children going to school? What can we add to our daily program to support transition to school? Is there just one extra thing we might add? How can we support families at this point in their journey? And you might do this at several times throughout the year. So often we think of that second half of the year preparing families to go off to school. But what can we do from the beginning of the year for families that will be going to school the following year to actually set them up on the way and then think about all the different ways you can pass information on to a receiving school.

Megan: Thank you so much for joining us yet again and reach out to us if you've got any questions on And feel free to take a look at our socials. We share lots of resources and ideas and tips and things on our social media. Thanks for joining us.

Sarah: Thanks a lot everyone, bye.

Webinar 6: Inclusion in out of school hours care services

This 90-minute webinar is for educators and service leaders who work in school age care settings. Participants will learn about what inclusion is and their legal and ethical obligations related to the inclusion of children with disabilities or delays in outside of school hours care services. Barriers to access and potential solutions to these barriers are presented.

Participants will consider what participation in school age care settings looks like in practice and will be provided with information about how they can collaborate with others and structure their environment to support the participation of all children. Case study examples will be used throughout, and the positive outcomes of inclusion for different community members will be presented.

At the conclusion of this webinar, you will have the knowledge to:

  • describe the ethical and legal reasons for the inclusion of children with disabilities and delays in OSHC services
  • collaborate with families and schools to implement strategies to support the participation and learning of children with disability or delays in your OSHC service
  • structure the OSHC environment and learning experiences to support the engagement and participation of all children.

Links to National Quality Standard Descriptors

  • 1.1.3 Program learning opportunities
  • 1.2.1 Intentional teaching
  • 5.2.1 Collaborative learning
  • 6.2.2 Access and participation


Watch the webinar recording

Dr Sarah Carlon: We're joining you from Castle Hill this evening on Darug Country and we welcome everyone across New South Wales.

Sarah Roberts: Before we begin, in the spirit of reconciliation STaR acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today. Who are we? STaR is an acronym. It stands for Special Education, Teaching and Training, and Research. We believe that with the right support, all people can and should learn together and that lifelong learning is a human right. We work across the early years, school-aged, and post-school settings to ensure that people with disabilities have access to progressive and meaningful learning. Established in 2001, we've worked with over 600 families and 300 educators. Our presenters today are Dr Sarah Carlon and Megan Cooper. Sarah is an InSpEd (Institute of Special Educators)- certified special educator and the manager of Research and Education here at STaR. She has lectured in special education at the postgraduate university level and has also worked in a range of inclusive early childhood settings as an ECT and centre director. Megan is also an InSpEd certified special educator, primary trained teacher, and is the manager of Families and Education at STaR. In her role, she manages the programs which support children and adults with disability to have quality learning plans.

Sarah C: Thank you Sarah. We'll have Sarah here who is a very experienced early educator, and she'll be in the chat tonight and the Q&A answering any of the questions that you have there. We’ll see her towards the end of the webinar.

Megan: All your fun questions, throw them in there to Sarah. This evening, we're going to cover a few things. We're going to go through, ‘what is inclusion?’ Looking at the definition of that so we all are on the same page of what we’re talking about. We're going to talk about the beginning of this process of students accessing and enrolling into your services. We're going to discuss ‘participation’, what it means for children or students to engage and participate. We're going to cover – ‘outcomes of inclusion’ for students with disabilities or developmental delays. We're going to talk about their families and your school-aged care community as well. We'll finish, hopefully right on time, with some take-home messages, and leave you with some reflection points that you can discuss with your team and service when you're back sometime this week.

Sarah C: Now what is inclusion? Now, it's likely to be a word that you've heard before and you're pretty familiar with and that's because equity, inclusion and diversity underpin the National Quality Framework, under which every outside of school hours care service in Australia operates. In the approved learning framework for school-aged care, ‘My Time Our Place’, inclusion is defined as ‘involving taking into account all children's social, cultural and linguistic diversity with the intent of ensuring that children's experiences are recognised and valued.’ This means that all children should have equitable access to resources and participation, and opportunities to demonstrate their learning and to value difference.

Megan: Fantastic, so when we talk about the definition of inclusion, we have 3 components that we use to set a type of framework. The first one is simply ‘access’. There is no way for students to be included if we're turning them away from our outside of school hours care service and saying “look, that's too difficult, we don't have children with that diagnosis, we haven't done that before, or we don't have a place for them.” That alone will not lead to successful inclusion. The next point here is the key to inclusion, once you've enrolled and accepted, and are enjoying those children in your services, we need to facilitate their participation and their engagement in your learning program. That's the whole reason why we're here and it's definitely the reason why students are coming to you so they can engage and participate in your program. So with access in place, participation happening, that leads to some really great positive outcomes, which is the key to the whole inclusion cycle. We want our students to grow, develop and learn skills.

Sarah C: It doesn't just underpin the National Quality Framework either does it Megan.

Megan: No, it's also the law. Sorry I got involved there with the chat. We've got here the Disability Discrimination Act and that covers us in primary aged children. The Disability Act 1992 is an act that was passed by the government, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, in education, in accommodation and other contexts. We sit under this law. Discrimination is defined as when we fail to make reasonable adjustments to include or have that person in our program. And also complaints can be made by families or anyone that feels that that might be happening to the Australian Human Rights Commission. That's one law that we sit under.

Sarah C: Now in the words of ACECQA, the Disability Discrimination Act simply means that children or students with disability have the right to be treated fairly, which is something that I'm sure you all agree with. This links directly to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. So, article 7 of this convention states that children with disabilities have the right to full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children, and that the best interest of the child should be our main consideration, the primary consideration. And that concept of fairness is also included in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, so that convention states that children with disabilities should enjoy a full and decent life, including the facilitation of children's active participation in the community. Having a look at your services, what other natural community is there for young children that are school aged, other after school hours care? Further in article 31 of that convention it recognises that the rights of all children to engage in play and leisure activities appropriate to the age of the child, again, something that all children have that access to within their local outside of school hours care service. If you're wondering, how do we embed this into our OSHC service, there are some tip sheets and some information about that Disability Discrimination Act written specifically for your audience on ACECQA's website. We've got the link there. Now we'll look at the 3 components of inclusion and start with access. Access is not only the first key component of inclusion, it's also recognised under the National Quality Standard, under collaborative partnerships with families and communities in element 6.2.2 ‘Access and Participation’. As you can see there that best practice in school-aged care services is to first identify what's stopping children from participating, and then address and remove those barriers, to make sure that your service is inclusion ready and welcoming.

Megan: Wonderful, now you get to participate. You've got that Slido link there, have a think about now what could be a barrier, what could get in the way of us accepting, welcoming, enrolling a student from being included in our service who has a disability or delay? What might get in the way? What's a barrier? We need to first work out what is getting in our way to including all students before we work out how to move around that or how to accommodate all of our students.

Sarah C: We've got a number of people in there typing, and also a few people typing into the chat. A few things related to behaviour and then the physical environment.

Megan: Young people who are good at running off, the environment, danger to others, noise level, the physical environment, it might be about accessibility physically. Like you said, Sarah, there's quite a bit there on behaviour.

Sarah C: We've got there staffing and then I’ve seen a few things around training, and just knowing “do I have the knowledge, lack of knowledge”.

Megan: Well, by everybody attending and joining us tonight, you're overcoming one barrier and that is building our skills and our knowledge in this area so we are ready to welcome and invite all students into our services.

Sarah C: We might leave that open for people to keep responding, but we'll hide it now from view, so if you're still in there typing we'll share this in our Facebook group after the webinar.

Megan: Thanks everyone. Looks like most people got on and were able to fill in that word cloud pretty well.

Sarah C: Absolutely. So, thinking there about those things that came up in the word cloud that's actually also come out in research, that this is something that more widely in New South Wales services are feeling. In a report prepared for the New South Wales Department of Education by researchers at Griffith University in 2021, these were the barriers that the researchers identified based on existing research on the topic. That staff don't have the necessary training, so they don't feel that they're ready to include, there might be insufficient funding, or they feel that the costs were too great, inadequate transport available to and from the service. I think that's particularly for those services that aren't lucky enough to be situated within the school grounds. Some educators were unaware of the children's right to attend outside of school hours care services, so they didn't actually realise that all those things we were talking about a minute ago, that it's actually a right for those children to be there within their local community and then services often believe that an extra educator is necessary to include that child. That's where sometimes those worries around funding and accessing funding can come into play.

Megan: Now that we've talked about that, we will consider what those barriers are like, those barriers to inclusion and how they might look from a family's point of view. We've got this lovely family wrapped around every child, student that we meet and we'd love to introduce you to Rose and Bernard, and they will share with us their experience of applying to enrol their son Xavier in the before and after school care service located within the school grounds at his local public school. Xavier was enrolled to start Kindergarten in a support class within this newly built school where there was an outside school hours care service, and that was just about to be opened so we'll hear their story.

Video Prompt: Tell us about Xavier…

Rose and Bernard: He’s probably the happiest boy you’ve met. I mean always happy. Always. He brightens up everyone’s day. With us, friends, family, even at school. So happy that he’s quite hyperactive and, you know, sometimes when it’s time to be serious or time to hurry up, he’s stills too happy and that’s okay. But just a very happy boy.

Video Prompt: Why OSHC?

Rose and Bernard: Yeah, being in OSHC you know, he had the opportunity to I guess, play with other kids and spend time with them, like normal kids do. Play and just being in a playful environment and that’s what we wanted for him, for OSHC anyway. For him to be with other kids, that’s how he learns, that’s how he has fun. We want him to be with his friends in a safe environment where we know we can trust already.

Video Prompt: What was the enrolment process like?

Rose and Bernard: I think they said we were one of the first one to apply so should be first in, first served. It’s great news, you know, we can still continue working and whatnot. But when that happened just before school started, I still remember getting that email. We just looked at his application and because he has special needs and blah blah, we might need more support, more this, more that, whatever, so we’re going to delay his commencement at OSHC I guess. Like okay, I kind of expected that, maybe I shouldn’t have expected it, but I did, but then I didn’t expect it to go for so long. Like I just knew okay a couple of weeks, it’s fine. I think I even reached out to the principal asking for his support as the delays were just getting pushed back, pushed back and there was a lot of pressure on your work and my work as well because he wasn’t able to attend OSHC. I reached out, I even started thinking because we don’t have any external family support. It’s just literally us, who else can we bring in to look after Xavier after school if he can’t attend OSHC. It got to the point that you even had to, you know, quit your job to support Xavier at home because OSHC couldn’t get him in. It was literally, because he started school in end of January or February of that year. We applied in the end of August the year before to be the first ones in, but, he didn’t even start until August, like a year later, after the application. Just keep saying all these reasons why they couldn’t have him without actually meeting him or understanding him. It was just, “okay he has a disability, that’s it, we can’t look after him, he needs one on one, he always needs one on one.” Yet they haven’t had a chance to meet him and our thinking is he doesn’t need that one on one. I felt that she saw it as “it’s too hard, it’s too hard to have him or would be too hard to have him in OSHC.” I just thought strange, I mean you know- just when do you really need one to one, like being an ICU nurse in the past that’s when you need one to one, going up on life support. But this is a kid who’s just running around, just excited, just happy, can help himself and just I don’t know where the difficulty was. But like there were barriers and barriers, excuses and it just didn’t feel nice.

Megan: So that's one family's story. Things went well in the end, once we got past that great big barrier of inclusion. So one of the first things that we found from that research report to break down barriers to inclusion is reflect on the service’s policies and procedures related to inclusion. A quick question, do you think or do you know if your outside of school hours care service has a policy about inclusion? I think quite a few people have answered already. It's interesting that this is the first step isn't it? Let's take a look at our policy, read what it is that we say that we're going to do and try, because keeping in mind that we've got those legislations there supporting that all students can attend your service, and we've got to show how we remove barriers to make sure that they can attend and access a service like any other family.

Sarah C: That’s right. I'm sure all of you watching Rose and Bernard there, that you had sympathy, if not empathy for them. But you might have also been reflecting that there are challenges, and we saw some of those barriers and challenges come up in the word cloud at the start there. We know that there are challenges, but how do we overcome them is the first thing. We’ve got 86% of those think they do have an inclusion policy. We'll have a little look now at what these sorts of policies and procedures might address, and how that can help you overcome that barrier to inclusion. So proof providers and service leaders can support the inclusion of all children in their services initially by making sure the service has policies and procedures in place to support inclusion, so as Megan said that's just the first step. If your service doesn't have a specific inclusion policy, you might actually be able to find information that covers this in other policies and procedures in areas like communication, collaboration, educational programs, engagement with families, orientation, induction and training of staff. And in most cases, all of those will actually feed into several of your service’s policies and procedures. We've just got a summary of the sorts of things that these policies and procedures should include, and you may or may not have one that's actually labelled inclusion policy or similar, but all of these things should link to supporting inclusive practice. The first thing that should be included there are links to your service’s philosophy, to the Disability Discrimination Act, to the National Quality Standards and to ‘My Time, Our Place’.

Megan: Another one is recruitment, induction, and professional development of educators and other staff. Note the tip sheets for highlighting the Disability Discrimination Act during inductions, available from ACECQA site.

Sarah C: You also should have some enrolment considerations addressed, including priority of access and how you assess your environment and make reasonable adjustments for children with a disability or delay. Some school-aged services have found it useful to reflect together as a team and go through almost a risk assessment. What's the potential risk for this child? What are our fears? What are we really worried about? Because a lot of the time it's not that you dislike these children or families in any way, it's more your fear around will we be able to provide good service for these children? You might choose to complete a risk assessment together or complete a risk management plan to help you see how you can break down barriers related to those perceived risks, or those things you think might be a risk. And if the process of that is actually embedded into your policies and procedures, it's really useful because you don't need to reinvent the wheel, or think “what am I going to do each time a new family approaches the service to enrol their child?” It's just something that you do as normal practice.

Megan: That’s it and in that story there, Bernard was saying they hadn't even met him. I mean, one of the things they might have done is just invite him for a play date and just laid eyes on him and say, “okay he's not that big of a flight risk or what have you, just we've got to reach out and give it a go.” The last one there is communication and collaboration with families, schools and external agencies. I’m sure that will segue nicely onto the next bit there.

Sarah C: So, more things that your policies and procedures should address. You can see here that it's not necessarily just a single policy where we tick a box. We need to look at the plans to support inclusive practices. What written plans will your service keep to document systematic, reasonable adjustments that you've made. Now, usually a service would have a strategic inclusion plan (SIP), which covers the whole service, plus more specific information about the individual children's goals or learning, or inclusion profile for individual children. A lot of information about how to develop a strategic inclusion plan is provided in the inclusion agencies website, we can provide that detail for you as well, but just remembering that while the SIP addresses the whole service for children with a disability or delay, it's really important to also document what you've put in place to support those individual children, to engage and participate and to track their progress. That's a record of those reasonable adjustments that show that you're complying with the Disability Discrimination Act.

Megan: Also your service should have policies and procedures that address child protection and restrictive practices. I'm sure you've got those in place. All staff need to be aware of those and they really need to be embedded into your staff induction, professional development that's ongoing and your daily practice.

Sarah C: They should also document the roles and responsibilities of different members of your OSHC community. An overview of who's going to implement or act on certain parts of the policy should be included with each policy, and policies and procedures should also include information about monitoring or review or evaluation, including dates for review. And it can also be useful to include information about who will be involved in the review while you're writing up or developing these policies.

Megan: What I want you to know at this point is you do not have to do this alone. We've already heard from a family's point of view. And now let's hear from one of the educators at Xavier's after school hours care service about what that team did to support Xavier's enrolment. I probably should say here, this happened eventually when the director changed out, and we had young Amy join and this is her story from where she picked up.

Amy: When Xavier was enrolled, it was our nominated supervisor who introduced us. We met the family. We met Xavier and we all spoke about the barriers and the strategies that we could possibly use and we spoke a lot with the school as well. We communicated all around and we discussed each other's day like at the end of school and at the end of OSHC, start of OSHC, so it was clear communication. In the beginning a lot of staff members were very nervous, and not all of them were, confident in working with Xavier or even having a bigger support group with us. So we had to do a lot of training and it was more with communicating with the families and even the teachers and we were implementing everything we could think of that works at home and at school, and by the end of it the relationships we did build were absolutely fabulous. A lot of the team here now are all like they're all just in love with Xavier. They really are and our support unit that we have here, everyone wants to be with him all the time now and it just takes you that little while to be confident, learn different strategies that works with different children and based on their interests. Everyone's so different all the children are so different.

Sarah C: Some of the main points that came out there was that the approved provider and the service leaders made sure that those systems were in place to overcome potential barriers to access. It did take a while, as you heard from Rose and Bernard, it was a new service when it opened up. We know that the wait time didn't happen for any other family after them at this service. They continued to work on overcoming barriers after he was enrolled as well. The nominated supervisor, the school, the family, and the educators all engaged in open conversations making sure that inclusion strategies were co-developed with the family and the school. It wasn't that it was up to the school-aged care service to decide what to do. They worked with the family and the school, the routines and strategies that worked at home for the family were embedded into how the educators worked with Xavier at the service, and all parties worked together to plan for transitions. Now the service leaders also worked closely with the Inclusion Agency to access training to upskill the educators and increase their confidence in working with children with disability and delay. That was the main positive that came out of working with the inclusion agency. We actually didn't hear Amy and her team talking about whether or not they applied for funding for an additional educator, it was really around the support that was available.

Megan: They did get great support, that’s fabulous. Another barrier that crops up when we talked to different services is this fear of what will the other students or the other families think? And one of the practices of ‘My Time, Our Place’ challenges us to address this. The quote here is the practice of play, leisure and intentionality, ‘Educators actively support the inclusion of all children and young people in play and leisure activities. They help children and young people to recognise when play is unfair, and work in partnership with children and young people to build a caring, fair and inclusive community.’ This is such important work for our young people with disability and delay. This is their chance to play and learn from social situations and build those social skills in that play-based group setting, which is just an amazing opportunity for our little ones. So by building conversations about difference and diversity into your regular program, this is less likely to be an issue when a child with a disability or delay begins at your service, and you can just simply continue those conversations with the children, and you probably all know students are very cool when it comes to difference. You explain something once and they're like, “okay that's how they drink or eat” or “that's how they talk, that's fine”. Now we're going to hear from Amy for a little bit about how the educators at her service addressed questions about Xavier from other children. This is something that Alex in the chat identified as a potential barrier to that peer understanding. You might get some hints from what Amy's done.

AMY: So some of the children are curious and they’ll always ask like, “oh why is Xavier the way he is?”, and we might have to refer it back to, “well everyone’s a little different, and we all have things that we like to do and act a certain way, say certain things. So it’s just that we’re all different and we want to make sure that we all feel safe and supported at OSHC.”

Sarah C: It's just those ongoing discussions about difference and similarity, and that it would be very boring if we were all the same. Now, we focused a lot about barriers then, but inclusion is not just about enrolling that child with a disability in your service. Believe it or not, that's the easy part. For a child to be included in a way that's not tokenistic they really need to participate in the routines and activities of your school-aged care service. In other words, we just want to see that the child or student is engaged. We can measure a child's engagement by looking at the amount of time they spend interacting with their environment, which includes adults, peers, and materials such as age-appropriate equipment, books, resources and toys. When considering engagement, we're really looking for a child or young person to be interacting in a way that's appropriate for their ability, but also age appropriate, and appropriate to your play-based school-aged setting, as opposed to maybe what you would expect them to be doing at home, in a clinical setting or even in that structured school setting. We have different expectations for children and young people in our settings.

Megan: I mean, this is one of my favourite settings. It's just a chance for young kids to be themselves, connect with others, learn all the social skills. It's such a wonderful opportunity for our kiddies. I will introduce to you now our little friend Ollie. Take a listen and look at this video and when it's finished, we'll be asking you 2 questions to answer on Slido. The first one is, is Orlando participating and engaging in the way that we've just discussed within that school-aged setting? And is he being included in terms of the definition that we've just talked about? While you're watching, have a think about what it means for a student to really be a part of the program.

Video Audio: Ollie has been coming to our outside of school hours care service for about 6 months now. There are a few things we do to keep him safe when he's with us. We have found that Ollie works best with one to one support from his favourite educator, Leah. He's always full of energy when he arrives after his school day, so Leah meets him in his classroom and holds his hand until they get to the hall for roll call. We have lots of different spaces in our service. So we like to encourage Ollie to stay with Leah in the hall or in the library so we can keep our eye on him because he loves to run off when parents are coming in and out. Also, when Leah's away, we always give his parents a call to let them know in case they have a chance to pick him up earlier. During afternoon tea Leah needs to stay close because Ollie likes to take other children's food. We don't want other students to worry about this, so we get Ollie to move away as soon as he's finished eating. His classroom teacher gave us some pictures and photos that she used in school, but our program is less structured and it's play based so we really didn't need them. Most days, Ollie has great fun with us at outside school hours care, but he gets over excited and can get a bit hyper. So his mum suggested we let him sit in the library with his iPad when he needs to calm down. I think the family are really happy that he has the chance to integrate with the other school students and we've enjoyed getting to know him. When he's following the routine a little better, hopefully, he'll be able to stay for longer.

Megan: Two quick questions there they are. The first one is Ollie participating and engaging within the school-aged setting and is he being included?

Sarah C: A few people in there responding that I'll display. Even though he's there, even though he's alongside his peers for part of the afternoon or most of it.

Megan: He definitely has access, doesn't he? We love that he's enrolled. We love that he gets to go, but, we definitely question that idea of that hearty engagement, participation. As Sophie says in the chat, just being there one on one with an educator, it's not a great idea. Ollie's going there to make friends, learn new things, play with different aged children and someone else has said I think there could be more focus on including Ollie, he's segregated. I mean, the word for me ‘integrated’ is a bit of a thing as well. It's like he's allowed to be with other children, but is this really authentic interactions and belonging, which is, like I said, what a fabulous place to do that kind of work in your services.

Sarah C: And there we have 92% of you saying, no, he's not actually being included. Not participating and engaging and not being included.

Megan: We're not saying for a second that the educators there aren't wonderful, they enjoy him, they like him. They want to do their best and you can hear in the educator that spoke, you know, we'd love for him to be here, but it's on him to be better and to engage better. The onus isn't on the team to remove the barriers and make sure that he can jump in and do what every other child is doing. We will finish up there and move to our next one. Here's our little friend Xavier, his educators had a chat about how things are going for Xavier when he attends the service. The same 2 questions. Do you think that he's now participating, engaging in this setting? And is he being included?

Video Audio: Xavier has been attending our outside school hours care for over a year now. He loves coming to us after his school day and he actually has a special job of meeting the Kindy kids at their classroom and walking down to the service with them and one of our educators. Xavier loves to be a part of the program and we follow his interests. He enjoys gross motor play with his friends outdoors, and indoors he enjoys painting, craft and different board and card games. Right from the beginning we put the time into teaching Xavier the rules and the out of bounds areas. We use visuals and photos to remind him of our expectations, and we found that lots of other children like to use them also. Xavier loves the older students so if we are having trouble getting him to engage in the routines or activities one of his older peer buddies will support and motivate him. We check in with mum and dad when they pick him up in the afternoon to make sure that we are including their goals for Xavier into our program. Xavier is now an active and confident member of the outside school hours care community. He is well known by all the peers who attend. Our whole team are so proud of Xavier and his progress in communicating and engaging with a variety of students and activities. His enrolment and successful inclusion has paved the way for other children in the support class at the school to attend our service.

Megan: Wonderful. Do you believe that he's participating, and engaging in that school-aged setting? And is he being included? And that's a good comment there, Sophie. It is a shame but we got there eventually and he's an adorable student. Who wouldn't enjoy him?

Sarah C: We weren't sure if people would put 2 and 2 together, but this Xavier from the case study is the same child whose parents told us about that bumpy ride to enrolment earlier.

Megan: Really tricky and they were patient and lovely and, of course, by default, when a child is engaging in the program and participating actively in all elements of a program and the routines, by nature they're being included, that is the definition of inclusion. But, you know, it's just that thing at the beginning, access was bumpy, but participation spot on.

Sarah C: We'll hear from Rose and Bernard again. You did hear from them about that bumpy road, but let's see how it went for them once he got in.

Rose and Bernard: The big change was once, I think, he settled in and she said, "there isn't issues with him at all. We love him. Just you know, you have nothing to worry about”, and we were like, that's so awesome because we had different feedback from the whole process. But once he started it was like, what's the issue? Because every time I'd be like, "all right, how's Xavier been for you guys?" You know, "has he been a naughty boy?” like, you know every time I picked him up from OSHC, "no, he's been great dah dah dah..." They all loved him, and they pushed the plans saying you know it's good that he's here, but we want to push him a bit more and we don't think that he should be just one on one as a shadow, just let him be to get involved in a lot of things, that's what they really push.

Megan: So you can see again we had that bumpy start to enrolment and access and getting there. Once he did start at the service, the team were able to support him to engage and participate. They're actually really excited about that learning journey. They were all in the team and you can see what a contrast that is to Ollie, who was accepted quickly, like, oh, a little fella with Down's Syndrome. Yeah, yeah, yeah, this is great, we'll have him, but then the quality of his participation and engagement was actually quite ordinary. It's very hard to expect really positive outcomes when we don't have both elements there, the access and the participation. So how did the educators at Xavier's service support his participation and engagement? And how can you do it?

Sarah C: The first thing you can do is expect participation and support the participation of all children at your service, including those with disability or delays. One of the principles of the curriculum framework for school-aged care, ‘My Time, Our Place’, is equity, inclusion and high expectations. And what this means is that you should view all children and young people as competent and capable and hold high expectations for them. You should be striving to create an equitable and participatory environment, and experiences that are going to promote the learning and wellbeing of all children. In doing this, you need to recognise that equitable means fair, but not equal or the same. And some children or young people will need greater access to resources and support to participate in your programs. The description of the principle of equity, inclusion, and high expectations reminds us that all children have the right to participate in your environments, regardless of different capabilities, or diverse ways of doing and being, and that you need to create inclusive learning environments and adopt flexible and informed practices, including making reasonable adjustments, to optimise access, participation and engagement in the program. You might be aware of that slight change of wording to a few of the principles and practices in the curriculum framework that came through in version 2 just last month, and that real focus there on the reasonable adjustments. That really helps you to align with that Disability Discrimination Act and what's expected of you when you reflect on your curriculum as well.

Megan: We'll drill down a little bit to talk about the actual things that you could do. I was just thinking then on Xavier's video, they just did things like teach him the rules, or teach him where the boundaries are. So one of the most important things, again, I want you to remember is you do not need to do this on your own. You don't have to reinvent the wheel or come up with all the strategies. You don't have to go and get a degree in Special Education to work out how to engage this child on your own. There are sources of information, support you can turn to and if you share with us now, as this cloud grows, where can we get information about how to support a child's participation and engagement in your service? We've got some ideas popping up already. First, obvious thing is to ask local agencies or school support. School support is a great idea. I mean, I assume this child is already going to a school and they probably have things in place, so why don't we check in with them. As Sophie's written in the chat there, the KU inclusion support worker.

Sarah C: We've got that coming up in a few slightly differently worded, inclusion agency, inclusion support agency. We're all talking about the same people there. And that's the one that in the video, Amy found really useful, the strategies that she was able to glean from there.

Megan: Yeah and I think there was some professional development that was suggested through that as well, and not all help or assistance comes in the form of funding. The funding is not going to answer all of your problems. We still need to teach children, and explicitly work out how to include them. Obviously, family is a huge source of information and you can see these 2 lovely parents of Xavier were very happy to share with the team, what works for Xavier, what he enjoys, how they find it easy to include, the classroom teacher, like we've said, allied health, there might be Speech Pathologist working with the child, or a physiotherapist, or someone else that you might be able to reach out to ask about what strategies work, or, what could we focus on here?

Sarah C: I love that a few people have said the team, and I'm assuming that's the team at your service, or even we'll try and build a community of practice through inviting you to a peer community after this, but even local, we've had some services that we work with that are friendly with other local outside of school hours care services, and they lean on each other and ask for advice.

Megan: Wonderful. So I like that we have had a practice at remembering that we're not alone. We don't need you to go off and become the expert. It's actually a real team approach works best.

Sarah C: So here are some ideas. Number one, a lot of those things have come up in the word cloud already, so the family is the first port of call for information about that child. The school, as Megan said, most of these children will be attending a school. You could also reach back if the child is in the early years of school, just in Kindy or Year 1, you might reach back to their early childhood environment if they did go to preschool, or long daycare, or family daycare, because that's more of a play-based environment that's quite similar to yours, and they might have some tips and tricks that really worked for the child in their setting. A lot of the time you can get this information from the family along with information about other professionals that might be working with the child. And we had a little think about those in terms of speech therapists, occupational therapists, or others. There are some online resources as well. ACECQA tip sheets around how to make those reasonable adjustments and there are some tip sheets in there specific to outside of school-aged care settings, so don't think that ACECQA's only focusing on those prior to school settings.

Megan: We did all the research and we were surprised how much great information is already there to support you.

Sarah C: The inclusion agency, which in New South Wales, you probably know, is KU. They're the ones that have that role in New South Wales. They've got a whole section there on outside of school hours care and the support that they can offer you. And ‘IncludED’ is a self-paced course with resources for working with children with complex disabilities in your type of services. It's hosted on the Victorian Government's education website, but because the New South Wales Department of Education helped to develop those and put some resources in, you can actually access it as well. It will ask you to register and you just need to pop the name of your service in and it won't matter that you're not a Victorian service, you can access that as well. It has those self-paced modules plus extra resources and downloads. We'd really encourage you to have a look at that if you have children with maybe what you consider complex or multiple disabilities.

Megan: In the chat, Dipti has agreed that IncludED is a fabulous site and again, I was really surprised at the quality of information that was there available to you. There's also some other things that you can do to support the engagement and participation of all children in your service. We've got here this updated quote from ‘My Time, Our Place’, and that is “educators listen to and collaborate with children and young people to identify and assess strengths and curiosities, and to choose appropriate strategies and design environments to plan the program”. You're investigators, you're detectives to work out, what a child is into and how great to lead children's learning, and inclusion, and sense of belonging through their interests and preferred activities. I'm not saying every child gets everything they want at all times, but it's definitely a great way to motivate a child to get involved, and to motivate peers to include that child, building on the child's strengths. We consider the environment, we make any adjustments as needed. Sometimes some teaching goes in with that where things go, or where the boundaries are. Things like that helps adapt that environment, so it's as safe as possible. I just thought about how to collect information from different sources to ensure that you're planning for children's interests, their functional needs and their strengths. Sorry, I'm jumping back to that first point. We do have another webinar that's free and available to you, webinar 2, the "Early Childhood Inclusion Step One: Observations and Planning for Children." And that gives you lots of information there about how to look at where a child's at and what they're interested in. Collaborate, of course, shared goals and strategies with the school and family. You do not need to write a whole new ILP, or Individual Learning Plan, or anything like that on your own. You can take a goal from the family, and a goal from the teacher, and a goal from yourselves. There might be some element of the routine of the morning or afternoon that you want to work on to include your child even better, and that's how you can put a couple of shared goals together. It doesn't have to be complex or difficult and also reflect on your routines, are they consistent? We know with a lot of our young learners that to have a consistent routine helps them organise themselves, know what to do when, know what's expected of them, when to hang their jacket up, or where they can go and fetch the water, or what have you. Having those clear routines and expectations consistent, helps us to make sure a child is well included.

Sarah C: There are some more things you can do, so Megan's already covered a lot of them, but to support the participation and engagement we can plan ahead for those transition times. Explicitly teach our rules and expectations. We did hear Xavier's team talk about how they explicitly taught the boundaries and I've watched this at my own children's outside of school hours care service, every time a new Kindy group came up, they would be out there every afternoon walking them around in small groups saying this is inbounds, this is out of bounds, we don't go there when we go to the bathroom. All those expectations were explicitly taught and that helps not just a child with a disability, or a developmental delay, it'll help all the children in your service. You might use visual supports. Assign the child a valued role. And this means if we think back to Xavier, when we were talking about what Xavier's time was like. When we're thinking about how he had that role of going to help collect the Kindy children and bring them up to outside of school hours care service, it was actually his job. He was valued within that community as someone that helped to do that.

Megan: The Kindy kid monitor!

Sarah C: He was! Using peers as role models. There's a lot of research evidence around the value of peer modelling and peer coaching, and it's very naturalistic within your service. You can see there the quote from your curriculum framework, ‘My Time, Our Place’ about “in school-age settings, children and young people need to develop that sense of belonging and they do that and feel accepted when they're supported to establish and maintain relationships with their peers and educators”. Really actively engaging them in doing that. It's going to help not only the child with a disability or delay, but their peers around them. Now, this was just a really quick overview of a few strategies that are particularly useful for working in your settings. We have another 90 minute webinar where we delve in with a lot more detail into strategies, a lot of the examples are in early childhood environments. Prior to school-age, but as I said before, because you're operating within the same sort of play-based curriculums, it is very much applicable to your environment as well.

Megan: That's right because the focus in the early years is often those social skills, and learning how to play and be with other peers. It translates really well.

Sarah C: Feel free to watch the recording of that "Strategies to Support Inclusion" webinar as well for some more tips and tricks on that.

Megan: Very easily translatable. Sarah and I have adapted that work for adults so it translates very well those strategies. Now we'll hear from Amy about some of the strategies that her and her team used to support Xavier's engagement and his participation and just take note of any that we just discussed, and we'll ask you to let us know what you notice in the Slido quiz after the video.

Amy: We've worked alongside Delina with inclusion support. She was amazing. She gave me all the strategies in the world. We created our SIP and it was based on inclusion, throughout, like, for everyone throughout OSHC. So we made social stories for Xavier and we've got lots of other kids that use them and it is more like little pictures, little visuals, for them to use at the school. Their bag, where does it go. Their teachers that they can come to. We were a little scared that the children were able to go out of bounds and go near roads and areas that they shouldn't be. So we used a lot of visuals and we had cones with string and a little poster of like holding hands. Just so the kiddies would know like, "oh you need to have someone's hand if you're going past here" or we'd have 'Stop' signs. So on like my staff door, kitchen door, we have 'stop, no children to access'. Throughout our staff meetings we asked Delina to come out and she taught us some sign language, which was really good as well. We've got some cards to help us remember what sign languages we can do. Xavier has made lots of friends throughout OSHC from Kindergarten all the way up to Year 6. He's gotten lots of friends that like to be with him throughout the day and make sure that he has something to eat, something to do. They always play with him in the library, and it really shows the strong connections that they've built over the past couple years and he now knows their names and he'll call out for them. He'll go looking for them and he gets so excited and he'll get them to come and play with him or they'll sometimes try and get him to follow them and say, "oh, why don't you come to the playground", and he'll go and join them. A lot of things that Xavier loves to do has been programmed and it's everywhere within OSHC. So we put it in areas that we know he gravitates to. So under our covered outdoor learning area today we've got our sensory balloons and, they get to make, like flour and balloons and make them balls. So he'll be out there pretty much for the full hour doing lots of different stuff and playing with all the balloons getting friends to join and he really does love it. Everything we program is catered to his interests as well. It was all based on the children's interests. So we'd have like a train bag and it would have even stamps that were trains for playdough or a train book and little trains and a train track and all of that and it was available to all the children.

Megan: I'm sure you picked up on a few things. You can see they're very motivated to get Xavier doing his best and it's so lovely to hear the support that they got from their KU inclusion professional as well, guiding them and giving them hints. As we always say to all of our educators, these are things that we know you do naturally. I think it's a great opportunity for us to point out to you what we know works, and what research tells us is a good way of teaching our students new skills, or including them. They're all pretty standard things that we would do. Let's see what we picked up on.

Sarah C: You don't need to have a separate, big, specialist program when you have a child, and that's the beauty of your environments. You might need to really adapt a school curriculum, or anything about teaching reading or writing and maths, and all those skills. That's where the teachers need to really, you know, nut down to pulling it apart to the smallest degree and making sure they have a program. But working within your play-based setting, it's just those little things that you can embed and as Megan said, it may be things that you're doing already with most of the children that you don't realise is really going to be able to support you to include a child with a disability to really participate and engage. So everybody noticed that focus on the children's interests. She gave some really lovely examples there.

Megan: Using visual supports and when we went to chat with Amy, she was like, oh, my goodness, like, we used these in the beginning to teach Xavier the rules and what we needed to help him communicate. Once he got the hang of it, he didn't really need them all that much, but so many of the other children use them. She said we just continued to use them in a regular way because there were lots of children that came through that might be just super shy, or speaking a different language, or something, that those visual supports helped as well, so it wasn't all for Xavier. It was actually good to include all children that might even be going through a tough time, or a little bit different, different language. Peers as models, this is really my favourite strategy and has very strong research and as you know from the primary sector, this is used very explicitly in Years 5 and 6, when they train those young, almost going off to high school people to mentor and support children younger than them. It's very, very positive and has great impact on their self-esteem as well. Don't think that you're bothering another child, that other child, that peer, gets a lot out of that experience as well. We heard about environmental adjustments, moving things around a little bit, the cones with the string just to really have that visual prompt that, no, we don't go out of this area. Giving the child a valued role, I love that as well, because we want our students to feel like they belong and they're important and they contribute to the community that they are learning and playing in. Collaborating with others was fantastic. Consistent routines is gold. I couldn't possibly teach without consistent routine. I need to know where I am from time to time. Explicitly teaching those rules and expectations. I can't imagine anyone not doing that. We forget that these things don't come naturally to everyone, you know, and preparing ahead for transitions. I think Amy covered most of those things. We'll keep moving along and talk about the next key indicator. This is why we're all here, the outcomes and this is the good part of the story. This is what comes out of all of our programming and thinking and work. In practice, the key indicator for successful inclusion in the end are these outcomes, which can be achieved by first allowing a student access, working with the family and the student and teachers to work towards specific goals and objectives, through participation and engagement in your program. What we like to have is probably at least one clear goal and to measure that goal, and that goal can come from an existing learning plan from the classroom. It can be a therapy goal. It could be a goal that the school community would like that student to learn. It could be something from home. We've often had, and I think Amy said dad was saying, ‘oh we bought him a scooter and he won't use it at all. Gee, I'd love it if he could, you know, get the hang of that scooter’, so the goal can come from anywhere. It should be something that you choose. You're the educator that's running this, and we want you to feel like it's your choice what to work on here and what this is for a student who comes to your setting is a chance to practice that skill in a different way, different time of the day, different people, different place and with different peers. This is an amazing type of therapy, educational therapy that you're providing. If you want to learn more about how to develop and implement strategies that support and track progress towards goals for children, you can check out webinar 4. That has 90 minutes of how to write a plan in great detail and although the examples in that webinar are, again, for educators of young people, the process is exactly the same for anyone in primary, high school, or even in the adult learning sector. Now we're going to hear from Xavier's educator again about how the team tracked Xavier's progress and what outcomes he achieved. They did all this, when I got there, I was so surprised how much they already had in play. This is all on them we had nothing to do with this.

Amy: So we complete a progress report each day and it allows all the educators to see what he enjoys, what he maybe didn't enjoy, if he was in a good mood, if he was doing okay at school. But we found that, because we were doing it each day, it was becoming quite repetitive, we decided to do it maybe once every couple of days, maybe once a week and we put it in a journal and all the educators are able to look through it before Xavier attends just so they know the strategies that do work and what his triggers might be and we kind of go from there. Since 2 years ago to now, the difference in even his mood, so he will run to OSHC and he will be so happy to be here. He will go around to all the staff and say hello and use all their names, when before he wanted to just hide in a corner, he was very overwhelmed with noise, he didn't know anyone, he didn't want to participate in the program. But now, even yesterday, when he was here, he was on a scooter and was going round and round and when I told Dad he was like, "we have 3 scooters at home and he doesn't use any", just stuff like that it makes you feel so good. And even yesterday with bikes, he was turning them upside down and spinning the wheels and to him this was absolutely amazing and all his friends around him were like, "that's okay Xavier, you can do that. That's my bike, but I don't mind, you can do that", because they saw how happy it made him. So he's now made so many friends with all different age groups and the relationships he has with all the Educators. It's just beautiful, it's really beautiful.

Megan: Yeah, so those progress notes that Amy's talking about, they weren't only available to the educators at the service and the school staff, but they also shared with Xavier's family. That reinforced their ongoing collaborative partnership and relationship that the whole team had and it meant that the whole team around Xavier remained on the same page. We keep each other up to date, what we're up to. You know, I think when Xavier left us in preschool, he wasn't really speaking any words at all, so his language blossomed as he got older, and he had another place to practice that language and another group of people that the family could celebrate that progress and success with.

Sarah C: Now when we're thinking of outcomes, which is that key indicator for successful inclusion, it's not only for the child, the outcomes. We know that first, those outcomes can only be achieved when we allow the child access, but then working with the family and the child towards specific goals and objectives and through participation and engagement in your learning program, we just had to think then about all those positive outcomes that can occur for a child, but there's also positive outcomes for the family. The family obviously benefit from the child’s outcomes. So Xavier's parents were able to share their joy of watching Xavier bloom and develop in that service, but on top of those there's also outcomes specific to the family that you're working with, so they can become an active part of your community and that's the child and the family really belong, and have that sense of belonging. And it's particularly good for children who might attend a support class as Xavier did, within that school, or even those that might attend a local specialised school, or SSP, often those specialised schools don't have outside of school hours care services attached to them, but the child is still part of your local community. That's their local area and for them to be able to actually be involved in, and part of your community, that's great. Families can have that shared vision for their child and share in the progress. And you heard from Amy's point of view how exciting that was. Imagine for Rose and Bernard how much that was also great that they could share that alongside those educators. And it seems obvious and a little bit like, do we really need to say this? But they can actually work, or be involved in other activities, just like any other family whose children attend your service and it seems, silly that we need to say that, but just think back to at the start, Bernard did actually have to stop working. They also have a younger sibling that they'd love to be able to spend time with to go to, you know, the afternoon tea at his child care service without bringing Xavier along sometimes, all those little things. So just to be able to live a regular life within your community.

Megan: Yes, it's a big deal for families with children with disability who often feel when they're little nothing's going to be normal in their life. For this family to attend that regular after school care program is unbelievable and not having access obviously was a real threat to their financial and overall wellbeing, so an incredible outcome in the end. Another big benefactor of a positive outcome is the community that we live in, is the community of our outside of school hours care service. So one thing it does is open the way for different children to attend, you can see they were a new service, they weren't sure about this, they probably weren't sure where the bathrooms were, let alone how to include someone with disability right at the beginning of their journey as a brand new service, and after they worked through Xavier and enjoyed it, they actually now prioritise children that come from that support unit because they know they can do it, they feel confident and they know the joy that those students are bringing to the group as a whole. Of course, those attending children develop empathy, acceptance and leadership. There's hundreds. It's a huge service. Hundreds of children attend that service. Children with disability or delay are a completely normal part of their community, and they're completely unfazed. It's not that they tolerate or even just accept. It's just their normal, an amazing opportunity and what a great opportunity for those families of children who attend there to know that they have this opportunity to enjoy a friendship with somebody with a disability or delay. So, also, we've got an increased understanding of diversity and inclusion. Again, these young students are living and learning, this is their normal and they play a role in this, and they should feel also like they've got a valued role in this community of accepting and enjoying somebody who's quite different or learning differently, speaking differently. We've had children who are tube fed and suctioned, and in wheelchairs, all sorts of young students attend after school care and it brings incredible gains for everybody involved. The educators at this place are positive. You can see Amy is just one of them, positively glowing, and they're so excited about the work they do. So it boosted their self-esteem, upskilled them. All of those educators who might go on one day to work at another place, take that experience with them. That's in their toolkit now. They know what to do if somebody comes to them who has got a learning difference of some sort and, of course, educators are learning from other team players, or specialists or experts or the family. It just brings a whole other layer of learning. They enjoyed the learning they got from their KU inclusion professional. They learnt some key word sign, they learnt visuals, they will take that home and that's a part of their understanding now. They can use it with their little baby nephew, or their neighbour, or someone else. It's an amazing outcome for the community. We'll move on to a video here to wrap up, of Amy discussing her reflection on what she saw as some outcomes for the community.

Video Audio: We were very nervous at the beginning we were, and we didn't have much knowledge or skills around autism or Asperger's and ODD, ADHD. So the more we trained as a team the more we became confident. The more we were in it every day and we were trying different things every day, the more everything just started to fall into place and kind of click and we realised, wow like this is amazing. We're seeing these children go from not being able to communicate much or we don't understand how they're communicating, to now where they're able to actually tell us some things using limited words or limited body language, and we know what they're saying. It's extremely rewarding.

Megan: And I'll just publicly thank Amy for sharing all of this story with us, and having us come in and out and pick her brain.

Sarah C: We want you to take home some real key points is the take home messages we'd love for you to remember if nothing else. I'm sure that there's a whole heap of other things that you might take from it. Probably Amy and Rose and Bernard's stories, Xavier's story, but number one, inclusion involves access and participation, which leads to positive outcomes. That's if you can get those 3 components right, you've got it. You don't need to do it on your own. You're part of a team. The partnership between the service, and the family, and the school is really critical to supporting those children and young people to be included in your service. You need to decide with the family what strategies you will use and implement them consistently, and then reflect and evaluate so that you can change them if needed. If you're trying something and your whole team's been really consistent at using that strategy with the child for a couple of weeks, don't feel like you need to keep doing it for the next 3 terms. If it's not working, workshop it again, lean on those support services around you, lean on that community to find something else you could do, and focus on at least one clear goal and record the child's progress.

Megan: Absolutely. So, reflection points. These are some ideas to take back to your service and just think if these things are in place, or to problem solve some of this with your team. How do your services, current policies and procedures support inclusion? Find them if they're available to you. Get your hands on them, read them. Do you think they're consistently and effectively implemented? Are they useful? They should be useful documents to you. Also, what resources can you access to support your inclusive practice? We've given you a bunch and I believe there might be a handout for this as well that we'll get to you at some point of all of those links. When we went searching, we found some wonderful resources there. It's all there for you, and also, how do you encourage all of your team to work together to support inclusion? A comment we often get is, not everyone is convinced. There's somebody or there's a few people on the team like, I didn't sign up for this. I'm not sure how to do it. How do we get everybody to buy in and get excited about this? Because, you know, the outcomes are just crazy, really positive. Thank you and thanks for those lovely comments in the chat. Bye now.

Webinar 7: Inclusion in family day care services

In this 90-minute webinar, family day care educators, educator assistants and coordinators will learn about inclusion, including legal obligations and why family day care is a setting of choice for many families of children with disability and/or delays. They will reflect on barriers to access, and the role of the approved provider, the service/scheme coordinator, family day care educator and assistants in overcoming these barriers.

Participants will be guided through how to plan for and support the participation and engagement of all children in their family day care program. Case study examples will be used throughout, and the positive outcomes of inclusion will be presented.

At the conclusion of this webinar, you will have the knowledge to:

  • describe the ethical and legal reasons for the inclusion of children with disabilities and/or delays in FDC services
  • collaborate with families, staff within your FDC service/scheme, Inclusion Professionals, and others to identify and overcome barriers to access
  • structure the environment and learning experiences to support the engagement and participation of all children in your FDC setting.

Links to National Quality Standard Descriptors

  • 1.1.3 Program learning opportunities
  • 1.3.1 Assessment and planning cycle
  • 4.2.1 Professional collaboration
  • 6.2.2 Access and participation


Watch the webinar recording

Sarah Roberts: Welcome everyone. In the spirit of reconciliation, STaR acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, and community. We pay our respects to elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today. Okay, so who are we? STaR is an acronym, it stands for Special Education, Teaching and Training, and Research. We believe that with the right support, all people can and should learn together and that lifelong learning is a human right. We work across the early years, school age, and post-school settings to ensure that people with disabilities have access to progressive and meaningful learning. Established in 2001, we've worked with over 600 families and 300 educators across 30 inclusive early childhood services. Our presenters today are Dr. Sarah Carlon and Megan Cooper. Sarah is an InSpEd certified special educator and the manager of research and education here at STaR. She has lectured in special education at the postgraduate university level and has also worked in a range of inclusive early childhood settings as an ECT (Early Childhood Teacher) and centre director. Sarah believes that early childhood educators are the key to successful inclusion and is passionate about translating early childhood early intervention research evidence into practice. Megan is also an InSpEd certified special educator and the manager of families and education at STaR. In her role, she manages the programs which support children and adults with disability to have quality learning plans.

Megan Cooper: Fabulous, thanks so much, Sarah. Sarah's still with us. She's just going to have a little nap and she's behind the scenes in Q&A. If you have any questions, feel free to pop in a question around content there, and if it's just regular chat, that chat room is fine. This evening, we're going to cover what is inclusion. We're going to make that definition nice and clear for you, so we make sure we're all talking about the same thing. We're going to talk about why family day care for our families and children with disability or delay. We'll discuss overcoming barriers to access, talk through supporting participation and engagement for our little learners. We will cover outcomes of inclusion in family day care. We'll finish off with some take home messages and reflection points for you to have a think about, things you want to dig into a little bit deeper or have a chat about with colleagues.

Dr Sarah Carlon: To start off, what is inclusion? Now this is really a word that we know you're familiar with because equity, inclusion, and diversity underpin the National Quality Framework (NQF) under which every early childhood service in Australia operates. And one of the principles of both the EYLF, Early Years Learning Framework, and ‘My Time, Our Place’ so the framework for school-aged care in Australia, is equity, inclusion, and high expectations. It's really highlighted in those documents that educators who are committed to equity, recognise that all children have the right to participate in inclusive early childhood settings regardless of their circumstances, strengths, gender, capabilities, or diverse ways of doing and being. As educators, we need to create inclusive early childhood learning environments that are flexible and have informed practices, including making reasonable adjustments to optimise access, participation, and engagement in learning for those children. In practice, having high expectations of a child with a disability or developmental delay means that educators expect, plan for, and support participation and engagement within their family day care settings. And we need to remember not to underestimate any child and to really focus on those strengths, and we'll talk about how you can do this a little bit later in the webinar. But we're just going to focus a little bit more on inclusion for now.

Megan: More specifically, Early Childhood Australia defines inclusion to mean ‘that every child has access to and is able to participate meaningfully in, and experience positive outcomes from our early childhood education and care programs.’ Drawing on that definition of inclusion, what is key is that there are 3 components. The first one is just access. There is no way for children to be included if we're turning them away right from the beginning, and saying ‘look, this is a bit too difficult, I don't have a spot for them, I'm not sure how to go about this’. Access or enrolling a child alone is not going to lead to successful inclusion either. The key to inclusion is once you have enrolled those children in your services is that you facilitate their participation and engagement in your early learning program, and that's what's going to lead to positive outcomes for the child and their family.

Sarah C: So inclusion in early childhood education and care services, including family day care, is supported by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified in Australia in 1990. And it states in Article 23 that every child with disability should enjoy the best possible life in society, including to be independent and participate in their community. Now for very young children early childhood education and care environments such as your family day care settings, are a real natural community and all children have the right to be included there. Within Australia, we have the legal framework of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, which, in the words of ACECQA, means that children with disability have the right to be treated fairly. They have created this poster that we have displayed here with tips about what you should know, think about and do to support inclusion in your family day care services. And this poster, and a lot of other resources to support you in complying with the Disability Discrimination Act, are available from the website that Megan's just shared in the chat there and Megan will just give a really brief overview of the act now as well.

Megan: So not only does inclusion underpin our NQF, it's also the law. And this is just a quick snapshot of that legislation that the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 is an act passed by the Parliament of Australia, and it disallows any discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, education, accommodation and other contexts, including ours. Discrimination is defined to include failing to make reasonable adjustments for the person. That's why we often talk about including children in terms of what we need to adjust for that child to be able to learn and play with us. And if there are any complaints, that's done under the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Sarah C: Okay, so that's what inclusion is, but why family day care for children with disability? Why have we created this webinar specifically? The Department of Education asked us to specifically create this webinar tonight for your family day care settings. Researchers Wong and Cummings suggests that there's actually several reasons why families of children with a disability or developmental delay may choose to send their child to a family day care service as opposed to another centre-based service, including that those small mixed age family groupings and one regular educator, means that that educator becomes intimately familiar with children and families, and this can potentially lead to individualised education and care environments, responsiveness to each child's strengths and needs, and support for families facing additional challenges. And I can just feel a lot of you nodding along there at home tonight. We do find a lot of family day care educators and those supporting them in services and schemes are very passionate about this, providing this individualised service to families. That's why you do it.

Megan: It's definitely a very unique service, and we, like Sarah said, we're super proud to finally create some content specifically for you. We would love for you now to meet Mel. She's a parent of one of the children that we know and she would love for you to know a little bit about why family day care was absolutely the right setting for her and her daughter, Katie. It's about 5 1/2 minutes long, so settle in.

Melissa: Our daughter Katie has a genetic disorder Neurofibromatosis Type 1. When she was 19 months old she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. At that point we had just started at our local early childhood learning centre. Obviously, we then had a period of time, probably about 18 months where she was having treatment and hospital and she was having surgery and so attending the early childhood centre just wasn't an option. One really important aspect of family day care for us was the fact that Katie was less likely to pick up germs. It wasn't practical to think that for the - it was over 4 years that she was having treatment. It wasn't practical to think that she would be excluded from educational settings during that time. It was really important that she went to Family Day Care to have the same sort of experiences that other kids would have had in socialisation and the smaller environment meant that she wasn't exposed to so many germs. The other families were great. They're all aware of the fact that Katie was immune compromised and so would always let us know if their child had come down sick over the weekend or if you know, another family member had and so we managed to get through that period of time really well without any sort of serious issues. One option would have been for us to have someone care for Katie at home when I went to work and certainly, there were family members who were able to do that for us if we needed but I think something that was really important about going to Family Day Care was seeing and being a part of established routines. Katie's routines at home and in the hospital were obviously all over the shop, you know, one minute you're at home the next minute you're in hospital for a week and you're running on a totally different timetable. Going to Family Day Care with 4 other children meant that Katie got to, I guess, understand the flow of a day. We all arrive and this is what we do in the morning. We then have morning tea, we have lunch time and we have rest time. Katie also learnt how to do more things for herself at home and in the hospital. She was obviously really used to having everybody do things for her. As one of 5 children and family day care, there were things that she had to learn to do herself. So putting on her shoes and socks undoing her lunch box. Even if there was no food in the lunch box that didn't matter it was the fact that she was taking the lid off herself. Getting her own bottle of water getting a bottle of milk and taking the lid off so that she could drink it herself was really important. Putting her things away, learning how to actually put her hat in her bag or in the cubby hole which all sound like really small things, but we're really important for her to learn. Katie suffered from really severe separation anxiety. What we now know is part of her Autism diagnosis, but at the time she didn't have that diagnosis or label all we knew was that it was really challenging for her to be left in an environment that was unfamiliar to her. Becky the family day care educator that she went to was fantastic and just slowly but surely extending the time that Katie was at family day care and getting Katie used to the other kids that were there as well. Looking back now, it was such an important step in Katie's early childhood education to make sure that she got that experience because it really set her up for going to preschool which she did one day a week before school and then on to school. Katie found and still does find eating different foods really challenging. One of the things that was fantastic with Family Day Care is that she got to see other children sitting with their lunch boxes all trying their different foods and while it didn't mean that she expanded her the food that she was eating she was at least getting to be okay with seeing other people eat their lunch and not feeling unwell as a result. She also got the opportunity to do cooking at family day care in a way that was comfortable for her. So Becki would include her in the cooking but she didn't actually have to touch anything if she didn't want to and I think that's smaller environment and having one educator who really knew Katie very well meant that certain boundaries like that for her weren't pushed too heavily. One aspect that was really great for us with family day care was around communication. Obviously, it's only 5 children. There Becky was had time to be able to just talk with us about how Katie's day was. We also had a communication diary and found that particularly useful where Becky would note down when Katie had a not so good day or certain things that had happened and that proved to be really useful when we were then talking with behavioural psychologists or the doctor about something that had happened, and I'd be able to look through that diary and go, “Okay well hang on a sec, this and this had happened before she hadn't been sleeping well therefore maybe that's why she's unwell or something had occurred.” But yeah, the communication was fantastic, and I guess knowing that Katie's in this completely safe environment where we knew that if something was happening we would find out about it meant that we had no hesitation in leaving her there.

Megan: Fabulous, I hope you enjoyed that.

Sarah C: I'm sure there's a lot of people coming to your services for those exact reasons. So keeping in mind now that inclusion in family day care services is not only a legal and ethical obligation, but it's also crucial to many families, just like Mel's. We will now look at the 3 components of inclusion and how you can achieve these in your family day care services. Starting right at the beginning with access. Access is not only the first key component of inclusion, but it's also recognised in the National Quality Standard under collaborative partnerships with families and communities in element 6.2.2, Access and Participation. The aim of family day care services and educators should be to first identify what is stopping children from accessing and participating in the educational program, and then to address and remove those barriers to ensure that the service is inclusion ready and welcoming. Now completing this webinar tonight will support you in identifying and addressing potential barriers and will better equip you to meet the requirements under this element of the National Quality Standard. Feel free to include that in your QIP (Quality Improvement Plan) or any other documentation you have.

Megan: It's time to whip out your device, grab that Slido link and jump in, and together we will create a word cloud. And this will give us time to have a think about what could be a barrier? I'm not sure of the type of people we have with us this evening. Have you had children with disability before? Have you done this or not yet? But thinking that somebody could walk through your door tomorrow, you want to be ready and welcoming, what could be a barrier? What could get in the way of a child being enrolled or included in your service? There's a few people jumping on now, and as you type in a word, that will add to our screen, we can collect our thoughts. The first thing is we have to acknowledge what might get in our way so we can address that. We've got the facilities, might be something that could stop somebody from accessing your service easily. Lack of knowledge.

Sarah C: There's also 'steps' there, accessibility, knowledge is a big one there.

Megan: The number of children already enrolled. Not trusting the educator, what you're saying there, I suppose, the parents not feeling trust. It is a barrier and it's something of course, once we know that that's a barrier, we can get together, make a plan, and decide on how we're going to overcome that barrier. Understanding of inclusion support. Transportation could be a barrier to a child attending your setting. What else is there?

Sarah C: Parents expectations, so I think that comes along with that trust of educator, building those relationships, getting on the same page, communication method's there.

Megan: So it seems like mostly what we've got here discussion around that physical environment, which is a good sign because it's usually something we can actually fix pretty easily. So other things that have jumped up in these word clouds before might be something like funding. Did anyone mention?

Sarah C: Yep, there's one funding there.

Megan: Time constraints, the idea that you're going to have to fit in some extra planning or maybe attend some extra professional development like you're doing now. Often we get that lack of knowledge or that worry that ‘I don't have the confidence, I'm not sure if I'll be able to do it or if I'll get it right’. The perception on the inability, like somebody has written here already, of a child to be able to communicate and for us to be able to communicate with that child. There might be some specific equipment that that child might need to use.

Sarah C: In the word cloud there that higher needs and only one educator to support, that can be a little bit confronting or scary when people start thinking about it.

Megan: Well, I'm loving that everyone was able to jump in and use that technology. It's a great way for us to get your ideas and your thinking when we've got a very big room full of people, we've got 70 or so people. That's a great way for us to get all of that together. Oh, somebody else has written here, the lack of understanding of other parents, which is a great thing to point out and another one that we can overcome. Certainly in our experience that we've overcome that really well in the past. Let's move along to talk about what the research tells us about the barriers to success.

Sarah C: Okay, so educators’ beliefs. We are summarising here some research that Wong and Cumming undertook a few years ago and they found that the most common barriers to access, that were identified by the services and the families that they surveyed and interviewed in this research were; educators’ beliefs about disability and the appropriateness of the family day care setting for children with disability, the physical setting or the physical space which came up really strongly there in the word cloud, sometimes the educators physical capacity, so perhaps concerns around things like, having to lift a child, whether they thought they could do that. Educators fears about their own abilities, so they hadn't done it before. Will I be able to provide what this child needs in my setting? Potentially negative perceptions about the impact on care for other children and concerns about what other families might think, and those beliefs about potential loss of other families or loss of income, that all came through as potential barriers to access.

Megan: Luckily, there are ways that these barriers can be overcome. We will hear now from a family day care educator, her name is Jodie, about her experience in identifying and overcoming barriers to welcome a little learner, Phoenix. He was a 4 year-old boy from her local community. Let's see how she went.

Jodie: I must say when my scheme coordinator called me and said she had a child with a disability needing a spot I was a bit nervous. Our community is pretty small, so I knew of this little boy and I was worried about my lack in skills in being able to look after him. Phoenix is a 4 year-old boy who has complex medical needs. So I was worried that he might pick up an illness from other children. Then I thought about my philosophy and I felt I had to give it a go because I've written every child has a right to attend educational care. Where my coordinator and I met with Phoenix and his mum Jen to see if my family day care would be a good fit and talk about Phoenix's needs. It was clear we needed to put a plan in place to make sure I got enough training to feel confident in being able to care for his needs. From this initial chat I felt I could learn a lot from Jen. She also said she could arrange for a nurse to come and do some training with me. His speech pathologist sent through some great easy to follow pictures of the common signs he was using and working on, and Jen demonstrated these to me during Phoenix's orientation visits. A possible solution I discussed with my coordinator was using a family day care assistant educator. But after the training, when we had the protocol for feeding in place, I realised I really didn't need another person here. In the beginning, I was worried the other parents would think time was being taken away from their child, but our children need personalised attention at different times. No different to when 3 month-old Ruby started and needed to be held when she fed from her bottle at different times throughout the day. Overall Phoenix was basically a regular 4 year old and I treated him like the others, focusing on building his independence and encouraging his strengths and interests. I made an effort to reach out to other family day care educators in my area and we met up once a week at a local playgroup, so I had the support of other educators. Mum and I had a great relationship. I wasn't afraid to ask her anything and she was great at sharing any medical updates. It was reassuring that I could also contact the nurse if I needed to. I learnt a lot from this experience and it was terrific to watch how the other children responded so naturally to Phoenix. Inclusion is just so normal for young children, they were completely unfazed by any medical procedure or equipment.

Megan: I've watched that so many times, but I like that it does make the point again that building relationships and what an impact that has. You know, the relationship with mum, better we work together the easier it is! We know from that story the ladies who she met up with in the playgroup that they connected with, when they had somebody approach them, they felt more confident because Jodie had paved the way, she'd modelled that it was quite doable. So it has this ripple on effect.

Sarah C: I think she was very honest with them, like she was in the video when she was talking to us around that it's totally normal to feel a bit nervous at first, to have that concern about will I be able to do this? We're not saying that you shouldn't feel like that, but just know that you can. That was the experience of just one family day care educator. But again, what does research tell us about overcoming barriers to inclusion? Now in the same study that we were talking about before, Wong and Cumming reported that where barriers to access were identified, the following acted as facilitators of access or they helped to overcome those barriers. So having a clearly articulated philosophy founded on children's rights and beliefs about the benefits of family day care for all children. Professional development and training, doing things like coming along to this webinar tonight. Availability of resources like, playgroups, home visits, modelling and materials. Support from family day care peers and family support. Knowledge about the availability of funding so for example, that might mean that when an educator knows that through the inclusion support program, the family day care top up is available if they are unable to enrol the maximum number of children as required under the national law due to the inclusion of that child with ongoing high support needs, then the educator might be more likely to enrol that child knowing that they could get a little bit of additional funding. Potentially, even if they're concerned about potential loss of income, then that would assist there. We also saw that previous positive experience, including a relationship with a child prior to their diagnosis helped. Megan gave the example there from Jodie's story, in that just having that experience, being adjacent to a child who was being looked after in family day care, helped those educators from other local services feel confident enough to give it a go. We've had lots of conversations with educators who have worked with children and actually gone through the process almost with the family of identifying that the child might have a delay and needs some extra support in other areas, and we found anecdotally that those educators are more likely to give it a go when they have other families of children with a disability or delay approach them and that was what was found in the research as well.

Megan: We will now consider what family day care services or schemes, approved providers and coordinators can do to help overcome barriers to access before focusing on the role of the family day care educators. Firstly, ensure the rights of all children to be included are reflected in the service philosophy. When revising the service philosophy, we want them to reflect on whether children's rights to access family day care services are reflected in it. Call out to the family day care educators, assistant educators, families within your service for feedback about what the philosophy might mean for them in practice.

Sarah C: That's the first step but in addition to your philosophy, policies and procedures that enable and support inclusion also need to be developed and regularly reviewed and updated. Now your service may or may not have a specific policy that's labelled as an inclusion policy or has inclusion in the title of the policy, but be aware that there are many other policies and procedures that will help and contribute to an inclusive service. These policies and procedures, no matter what they're named or labelled, should address links to your service philosophy, to the Disability Discrimination Act, and the National Quality Standards, and to both the Early Years Learning Framework, and ‘My Time, Our Place’ curriculum framework. They should address recruitment, induction, and professional development of staff. Enrolment considerations, including inclusive environments, reasonable adjustments, risk management or risk assessments. They should address communication and collaboration with families with the scheme coordinator and other providers, and the role of working together agreements. They should address educational programming and documentation, the development and implementation of plans to support inclusive practices, such as a services Strategic Inclusion Plan (SIP), and also individual plans for children where needed, so Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) or positive behaviour support plans as well when needed. They should also address child protection and restrictive practices, dealing with medical conditions in children, and the roles and responsibilities of the family day care educator, the family day care educator assistant, family day care coordinator, the approved provider and nominated supervisor, and also the monitoring, review, and evaluation. So you can see there, it's not just about one policy labelled ‘inclusion’, all of these things are going to support you as a service to make sure you have a really inclusive service. And the role is not only to ensure that the policies and procedures are in place, but also to make sure that all staff, including the nominated supervisors, family day care coordinators, family day care educators, and educator assistants, volunteers, or any other staff members, are following them. Now ACECQA has developed a tip sheet that overviews 6 reasonable steps that you can take to ensure that that happens, to ensure that people are actually following policies and procedures. That's a great starting point to say how are we going to do this?

Megan: Family day care services should also work with the local inclusion professional from the Inclusion Support Agency. I wonder if we've got any of those people here with us this evening, and we've got a link there. They can support you to develop a strategic inclusion plan for the whole family day care service or scheme, and the process of developing a SIP, strategic inclusion plan, will support you to identify your current inclusion capacity, as well as the strategies and actions that you will implement to ensure all children can actively and meaningfully participate in your program. The SIP also links with your service quality improvement plan, or the New South Wales self-assessment working document, and it is evidence for critical reflection and inclusion planning. That's a really handy plan to have in place.

Sarah C: What else can our family day care coordinator or approved provider do to help overcome those barriers? You can visit the individual family day care educator's homes to observe and listen to the educator. Then together critically reflect on the current practices, on the educator's strengths, on the barriers that you can see within that setting and then potential solutions. You can also facilitate ongoing professional development opportunities, resource information sharing and communities of practice between family day care educators within your service or scheme. Traditionally, we think of this as going down to the local playgroup. Often over the years, we've seen lots of services, facilitate playgroup sessions. That's when you were a service within a particular local area, which there are still several of those around, but what we're seeing more and more now is also services or schemes that cover a really wide range distance, and we're lucky that we actually have things like what we're doing tonight with webinars online. We've seen a lot of good online communities of practice too. If your service covers a wide physical area, you might think about how you can help the educators within your scheme to connect with each other, even if they can't go physically together. You can also support individual family day care educators within your service or scheme to access inclusion support through the Inclusion Support Program and develop a strategic inclusion plan specifically for their home setting with an inclusion professional when needed. And again, information there about the Inclusion Support Agency.

Megan: Reach out to your inclusion professionals, they're wonderful, friendly, helpful people. So now what about your role, the family day care educator? You can begin by reflecting on the philosophy of your service or your scheme, and also on your own personal teaching philosophy. Ask yourself, does the service philosophy align with my personal teaching philosophy? Do they both support inclusion? Do one or both of them need to be reviewed or updated? And are both the service philosophy and my personal teaching philosophy reflected in my daily practice? And if not, why not? Maybe it's time to review. So, we will begin this process now, thinking about your personal teaching philosophy here in your Slido. Does your personal teaching philosophy support children's rights to be included in your service, regardless of differences, disability, delay, diagnosed or otherwise? It seems that all the people that have jumped on so far are feeling really confident. There's absolutely no shame in saying ‘I'm not sure’ and that's why we're here so we make sure that these things are in place for us. But it does seem at the moment most people are feeling quite confident that their personal teaching philosophy supports children's rights to be included in your service. Yeah and like we said, once again, we're not saying it's easy or obvious or no big deal. We're not saying that you don't have the right to be a little bit challenged, confronted, but it's the first step really is believing that this is something that needs to be done and of course, thinking back to Mel's story, would this encourage you to update or review your personal teaching philosophy?

Sarah C: Sometimes we don't take that moment to stop and reflect, and think about why am I doing this? We just are so in the day to day, that standing back and thinking about why did I start doing this to begin with? But once you then have tuned in to that service philosophy and your personal teaching philosophy, as you have all done just now, you can also work with your service coordinator to identify potential barriers to inclusion and strategies for overcoming these. Now, perhaps you've already noted down some barriers that really resonated with you and maybe even potential solutions for them when we've overviewed them so far in this webinar. If they've come to your mind, feel free to take some notes now and make a time, if you can do this, you know, plan a bit of action. Often we come to professional development like this and think ‘oh, there's lots of good ideas, but how do I make that actually work?’ Make a time within the next couple of days with your service coordinator, contact them and book in that they can come within the next few weeks to identify potential barriers with you and talk through those possible solutions. You could also ask them if they can connect you with other educators within your service or scheme who have worked with children with disability and their families before, so that you can talk about what worked well with them or what they might have wished they had done differently, what they would do differently next time, because we often learn more from things that we look back and reflect on and say ‘I wish I did that differently’. You could also request that your service coordinator connect you to the local inclusion professional from the Inclusion Support Agency so that you can access support through the federally funded Inclusion Support Program. Now regardless of whether or not the scheme or service has already developed a strategic inclusion plan for the whole service, you can ask your coordinator to connect you with an inclusion professional to help you, and they can do that in a number of ways. They can help you by listening to your successes and challenges, by supporting you to critically reflect on current practices and identify inclusion barriers, they can provide practical advice and help you to identify possibilities for change, and guide you in the way that you can achieve this. Now in consultation with your family day care service, inclusion professionals can provide you with a combination of flexible support options that include over the phone and online appointments, and in some circumstances, when additional resources might be required, they can even come and visit your home setting, so that can also be arranged.

Megan: But moving along educators, we want you to remember that you are not alone and this is what I felt why we were creating this content. You know, how do you do it when you're alone in the home and you're running your own service? And it's to create your own community, isn't it? We've already considered how your family day care coordinator, the inclusion professional from the inclusion agency, and other family day care educators with experience including children with disabilities or delay, can help you to identify and overcome barriers to inclusion. So please don't forget, one of the most knowledgeable resources you have access to, does anyone know what I'm thinking of? The child's family like Mel in our video, there's nothing she doesn't know about that child. So before a child starts, talk to their family, and ask them to also connect you with any other early intervention professionals working with the child, so together you can plan strategies to overcome potential barriers to inclusion. Early Childhood Intervention Australia developed templates and resources to support early childhood educators like yourself, other early intervention practitioners and families to come to an agreement about the approach that you could take to support the inclusion of a child with disability or delay. This is because when we all work together, this results in definitely the best outcomes for the child and their family. We recommend that you access those Working Together Agreement resources and introduce the agreement right from the start. This helps us ensure that we're all on the same page or have the same expectations, we know how to communicate with each other, we know how to document guidelines for how we will do that, to support the child's inclusion in your family day care setting. You are not alone, there is a lot of good information out there. All we need to do is bring it together and make sure all the people are talking to each other.

Sarah C: I did notice there was a question around funding for things like ramps. Our inclusion professionals might jump into the chat and provide a little bit of extra information, but what I would suggest would be accessing that Specialist Equipment Library. Often there are things like removable ramps that can be accessed and other equipment that you might access. If we have a look at the Specialist Equipment Library, but talk to your scheme, talk to your local inclusion professional.

Megan: Madhabi, an Inclusion Professional, here agrees with us, ‘Yes a Specialist Equipment Library’. I love that we've got lots of knowledge in the room, together we can work this out.

Sarah C: Okay, so we thought a lot so far about how you can identify and start planning to overcome barriers to access and some of you are even doing it on the fly tonight, but inclusion is not just about enrolling that child with a disability in your service, believe it or not that can just be the easy part, to say ‘yes I'm going to give this a go’. For a child to be included in a way that's not tokenistic, they need to participate in the routines and activities of your family day care setting. In other words, we want to see that the child is engaged, and we can measure a child's engagement by looking at the amount of time that they spend interacting with their environment, which includes the adults, any peers and materials, like age-appropriate equipment, books, resources, toys, outdoor equipment, and when considering engagement, we are really looking for a child to be interacting in a way that's appropriate for their ability, but also really importantly age appropriate and appropriate to your home-based play setting as opposed to the child's home or a clinical setting or other community setting. In the first webinar in this series, Inclusion in Early Childhood Services, we provided some examples and non-examples of participation and engagement, so there were some videos that really showed what this can look like in practice, just in general in early childhood services. We wish we could include everything, but this is the seventh in a series of webinars and we will refer you to some of the other ones where we went into more detail for some of this and really focus on things that we think are going to be useful for you as family day care educators.

Megan: The very first step in tuning into the needs of a child with a disability or delay so that you can support their engagement and participation in your place, is also the first step in the usual planning cycle in early childhood education. As recognised in both the EYLF and the My Time, Our Place curriculum frameworks, observing, listening, and collecting information. Element 1.3.1 of the NQS also addresses the assessment and planning cycle, stating that “each child's learning and development is assessed or evaluated as a part of that ongoing cycle of observation, analysing, learning, documentation, planning, implementation and reflection”. So none of that is new to you, and in this next section of the webinar, we'll demonstrate how you can access and evaluate the learning and development of children with disability or delay, diagnosed or otherwise, in your home, better equipping you to meet the requirements under this element of the NQS.

Sarah C: What information do we need to plan for engagement and participation? Firstly, we need information from the child's family. We want to collect information about the family's priorities for their child, about their child's strengths, interests, and functional needs. The next planned setting, are they planning to go to another centre-based early childhood education and care service, to a specific preschool or school? We always want to be planning for supporting that transition to the next setting. And then any goals or objectives being targeted by other professionals outside of your setting, or strategies being used. It might be strategies that are being used by the family, by a speech pathologist that they're seeing or an occupational therapist or behaviour support person for example. We want all of that information. Now in previous webinars we actually ask the participants how do you collect this information from families? And the most common responses are shown in this word cloud here, so you can see there those conversations are really where we're getting lots of information. Don't forget that you often ask for information like this on enrolment forms or in orientation visits. Make sure you have a system to document this so that it can really feed into your planning.

Megan: We also need information about the child in your family day care setting, including their strengths, interests, their needs, as well as their level of engagement in a range of activities within this early learning childhood environment. To collect that information about engagement and their current skill level, you'll need to observe or assess the child within the learning environment, your home, and other regularly used venues.

Sarah C: We have a 90-minute webinar that's purely focused on observation and planning to support inclusion in early childhood education and care services. This is really just a little refresher for those of you who have attended webinar 2 or a little ‘preview session’ for those who haven't yet completed it. Observation or assessment data can be used for a variety of purposes. We do this for a lot of different reasons, and planning to support engagement and participation is one of those, and we should focus on collecting observations that focus on measurement of engagement or the child's current skill level. What we're really wanting to do, the ones that are going to be most useful for us is data or observations that can give us a baseline measurement or a starting point of what the child can do at the moment so that you know where to start teaching and supporting and facilitating that child's development. That will give us, those things that are going to give us the baseline measurement are things like timed and countered observations, and they’re most useful for really tuning into the strengths and needs of a child. We want to be able to answer either the question of often how long does it take for a child to do something once I ask them to? How long are they engaged in a particular play-based activity? How long are they crying when mum leaves in the morning or dad leaves? Or how many? How many prompts or reminders does this child need to help them, to support them, to follow the routine of the day? How many words are they saying at the moment? How many sounds are they making? They're things that are going to be really useful for us.

Megan: There are some things you can do to make it easier to collect those observations or that data in your family day care setting, where generally you are the only adult at the service. Think about what you want to measure and how before you attempt to record that observation. I find definitely tallies, quick markings, counting how many times something happens, really easy way to do that. We can use technology, videoing, audio record so you can watch that later. I'm loving this at the moment actually, getting little snippets of video that I can sit and look at later. And often there are many things in the moment when you're working with children that you don't pick up on, but when you're looking at that later you go, ‘oh actually, I can see this or that happen’ and you can make some adjustments or at least collect that point of where a child is at in that moment. If you work with a family day care educator assistant, or if you're partner is at home, or your older child or something, or a student even, ask them to record for you, or collect data while they interact with the children. Or if other professionals visit your service, ask them to collect observations and share the data that they collect with you. We have to be like a little bit creative to work out how to get that snapshot of where children are at. Then we can start to assess and put a plan in place.

Sarah C: As Megan said, once we collect all of that information, we need to assess, analyse, and interpret it. There's no use in just holding it. This information is really what's going to guide us in terms of the child's learning. You're probably already aware that assessing, learning, and engagement is the next step in the early childhood planning cycle. Analysing data involves bringing together what you've already collected, and then summarising it and thinking about possible long term goals for that child. To develop long term goals or outcomes, you should consider the child's current level of engagement and their skill level. So what can they do at the moment? What are they showing that they know? Consider the family's priorities, your priorities for the child within your family day care setting. You know your setting best, that educational environment. You know that child best within the setting. Priorities of other professionals working with the child as well, and also as I said before, when we were talking about collecting the information, always thinking about that child's next environment, and not that we're trying to duplicate that environment within your setting, but thinking about what skills the child might need, how we can support the child as they move on to that environment.

Megan: You might have noticed that we didn't suggest that you focus on the child's disability, their diagnosis, their label, or whatever the paediatrician said, to determine those long term goals. This is because we follow a non-categorical approach, and that means that the child's diagnosis does not guide what we teach and how we will teach that child. And also the child engages within your home, that child's skill level will guide both what is taught and the strategies that we will choose to use. Don't think that you have to read those reports cover to cover and that it will tell you everything that you need to know about how to teach this child and what to teach this child, because it won't. We really need to have a look at how that child's responding to learning and playing in your home.

Sarah C: So now once we have assessed, analysed and interpreted that information that we've collected to determine the long term goals, we can break them down into smaller or simpler short-term objectives. Now short-term objectives are really important because they're more likely to be achieved within a shorter time frame, and therefore they provide a narrow target for what we want to achieve or, what we'd love to see the child doing and make it more likely that we will be able to do that. More likely that the child and the family will see progress within that shorter time frame, and that's really important for the motivation of everybody involved. Now webinar 4 of the Early Childhood Inclusive Education series, ‘Early Childhood Inclusion Step 3- Developing and Implementing Individual Learning Plans’ provides much more detail about how we can analyse those data and break down the long term goals into short-term objectives with lots of examples too, to show you how it's been done in practice. We would have loved to go through all of this for you tonight, but it's not possible.

Megan: We highly recommend you watching webinar 4 of this series.

Sarah C: Planning is the next step in the planning cycle, and it requires educators to be intentional in your choice of appropriate learning and teaching strategies, in the contents of what you're going to teach, the resources that you use, and the design of the use of time and your indoor and outdoor learning environments. That means that following the assessment of learning and engagement, it's time to pull all of that information together, and we suggest the best way for you to do that is to write an individual learning plan for that child. That plan provides a summary of the assessment information of the child's strengths, interests, and functional needs within your family day care setting and overview of the long term goals and those short-term objectives for the child and the teaching strategies, or what you will do to support the child to achieve the objectives and goals. It provides focus for us as educators and can stop us from thinking, ‘oh, I need to do it all at once, there's so much I can do to support this child, but there's only one of me, how do I do it?’ This will give you permission to focus on just a few little things at a time and that's the way you'll see the progress. Importantly, that individual learning plan (ILP) is also evidence of reasonable adjustments that you've made to support the inclusion of that child as required by the Disability Discrimination Act, and as noted in the updated curriculum frameworks, the EYLF and My Time, Our Place. Further detail about writing, developing and implementing those individual learning plans is presented in webinar 4 of this series. But right now what we're going to do is focus on strategies or what you can do to support children to engage and participate.

Megan: So back onto our Slido. You might be concerned that writing an ILP for a child with a disability or delay means you need to work one on one with the child or to give this child alone lots of individual attention through the day. But you may not be aware of this as a family day care educator, working with a small group of children, there are many times throughout the day that you might stop to focus all your attention on one child to give them a little bit more assistance or encouragement, or even comfort. We'd like you to stop now, have a think about on all those little moments when you provide that individual one on one attention or support to a child at your home. So let’s us have a look at the Slido, doing routine tasks, reading a book side by side with the child, care routines, things like nappy change, a great time to have a beautiful eye contact and have a little sing song or some lovely connection time. What else have we got there? Giving feedback is absolutely a one on one individualised moment. During group time, arrival time, a lovely time to just spend a few moments just to warmly greet and welcome that child for the day.

Sarah C: Somebody's written in there, it's spontaneous. You can capture those little moments all the way through the day.

Megan: Sleeping time, you might have a little bit of a pat to support a child to get that sleep routine happening. Putting on the shoes, doing up buttons, all of that sort of thing. There are lots of little times during the day that you do that quality one on one attention, but we don't think of that as this child is special and has an individual learning plan and I have to do this all day long. It's just something that you're doing naturally and spontaneously. So, you do actually have time to fit in those little moments in your day because it's a very much a normal part of what you do.

Sarah C: Hopefully now after reflecting on how often you actually work with children in that one to one context, we're giving them little bits of individual attention. We're hoping that you might feel a little bit more confident in your ability to use a variety of strategies, including some that might actually require some individual support, to support the participation, engagement, and learning of children within your family day care program including children with a disability or developmental delay. Now, you might be curious about what strategies are best to use when working with children with a disability or delay, and again, we have a 90-minute webinar just purely demonstrating some of these strategies. That is our webinar 3, ‘Strategies to Support Inclusion’, is full of teaching strategies that can be used to support engagement and participation of all children within your service, including those with a disability or delay.

Megan: Strategies, the first strategy you can use is to embed small amounts of practice into your regular routines in your setting, and another name for this is distributed practice. We've got here a couple of little pictures. The first one we've got here, Jodie encouraging Phoenix to rollover towards the cars. This is one of his therapy goals, was to roll a certain way, and here we've got you know, holding that desired object that motivates him to move in that direction. That is of course, another evidence-based strategy which is using the child's interest and keeping it very playful. The second one is a shared book reading activity there, and the educator has 10 minutes in the morning before the other children arrive, and on other days has spent 10 minutes while the other children are resting on their beds. It's a way of just fitting in that little practice, that little one on one practice, in a very naturally occurring day. The main point here is you don't need to sit and do a whole chunk of learning or practice or drills. There can be just little moments throughout the day, and we know through research that we actually learn better with those short, sweet learning times.

Sarah C: What we've done in these strategies that we're talking about now and then in the next few slides, we're really aware that as family day care educators within your environment, you need to think about a lot of things when you're thinking about which strategies you might use, including how intensive a particular strategy might be for you to implement and how you can fit it into the flow and routine of your day. That's the reason that we've chosen this one to start with, to really make the point that the evidence in this area actually points to that small amounts of practice, or distributed practice, are a really good way to go. So we can see here, another example of distributed practice, a range of opportunities for Leah to manipulate objects using her hands to develop fine motor strength, and these were offered throughout the day, across the week, lots of play-based activities. Building with the blocks alongside her peer that loved doing that, they do it together, and then knock the blocks back down, and that kept them engaged for a long time, and then we actually built in some turn taking with that as well, so lots of things you can work to within one little activity. You can see here drawing, working with Playdough, other activities here, lots of things where we can develop that fine motor strength. It's not that the educators needed to sit down and do the 15 minutes of the fine motor activity that the occupational therapists showed and demonstrated when she went through, what she does in the clinic for this 15 minutes, and then the next 10 minutes and the next. There were ways to develop that in a play-based way, embedded within the routines of that family day care setting.

Megan: Other strategies that are well suited to family day care are using your environment, so structuring it to support engagement and using visual support. I'm sure that's not new to you. We've got here the educator, sitting down at the kids’ level. We've got everybody up at the table. They're all nicely tucked in there ready and very engaged. Everyone's got their own space and it's easy to control activity there. The other things we've got there are visuals. This one I can't actually live without, what song do we sing? Because I forget all the songs when I'm put on the spot, and it's a way to remind me of what songs we're working on as a group, and then to give the children the choice of what order we do it in. Giving them that choice increases their engagement and they're participating when they get to have a say, some choice and control. And then of course another one of my hot tips, my very favourite, is to create a little bit of order for someone that might need some direction or we're really looking at keeping them on task a little bit longer, we might start with a couple of things that we know are, fine to start off with, like Playdough, then the dinosaurs, and lastly the musical toy which was the hot favourite. It helped us stay on task and involved in activities for a little bit longer than usual, just having that visual sequence to follow got that child engaging a little bit longer. There's lots of tricks I know you're all very good at what you do in organising your environment to make sure it seems as engaging as possible.

Sarah C: The EYLF does remind us that those environments that support learning are the vibrant and flexible spaces that are responsive to children's strengths and culture and language, to their interests and capabilities, and that they reflect the local community. And that well-planned environments are those that cater for different learning capacities and allow for those reasonable adjustments where required. Sometimes it's just a matter of standing back and thinking, where can I make that reasonable adjustment? As Megan said earlier, you don't need to do that on your own, call on the rest of the community around you to support you, to think about how you can make those adjustments. Now thinking right back to the beginning of the webinar when we met Mel, we heard from her about how important being around peers and watching them eat different foods, something really simple or just do things for themselves, be independent within that family day care setting was for her child, Katie's learning. Now peers are great role models and children learn well through imitation, this is something that we see, for example watching other children eat from a lunchbox or put their belongings away in their bags. The mixed age grouping in family day care settings provides a really unique opportunity to use older children as peer models, and some of you are even lucky enough to have some school-aged children come and join the younger children before or after school or during school holidays. So really take the time to acknowledge that unique opportunity you have and know that it's actually another evidence-based strategy when we are looking at children's development and early childhood intervention. You can see our friend Felix here who really wasn't too motivated to sit at the table and eat, he'd much prefer to be checking everything else around. And one of the goals that the educators had for him was for him to engage in a bit of turn taking conversationally. They were doing that through looking at pictures in a book, that shared book reading that Megan was talking about a little while ago. The educator tried to do it with him, would get him to sit for a couple of minutes, but he was much more likely to do it when sitting down with his older peer here. You can see him just being supported to engage throughout the day and what a great opportunity for him.

Megan: What people behind the scenes don't realise is this older friend was often identified as a tricky customer, he was often a little bit challenging, really trying to stretch his big personality. Instead of that educator going, ‘oh Max sit down, Max do this’, she very cleverly guided him, ‘can you please help me? You can teach Felix, you can do this’, and it gave him this job of as the older peer tutor. It meant at the end of the day, the educator was able to tell that mother some wonderful things about his behaviour, when the mother was really worried that she was going to hear bad things, but she didn't because he was chanelled into being that older peer, which was it was a perfect win-win.

Sarah C: It was great in building his confidence before he headed off to school.

Megan: Don't ever think ‘oh I've taken this child away from his learning, or playing, or building, or development’. You're not at all, it boosts that older child's confidence and skills as well. In summary, when you work through the elements of that planning cycle and you've created a simple working individual learning plan to focus on just a couple of objectives, it doesn't have to be many, you will actually support the child's participation and engagement in your early education and care setting. This is actually the absolute definition of inclusion, when a child is engaging in participation. That ILP helps you to action that whole thing and have proof of your fabulous work. We can find out why this child's making great progress it’s because I've put these things in place so it's brilliant. A comment from Adelaide who said that the ILP in her service has been essential, and it makes that progress really visible and really clear.

Sarah C: Then when you welcome that child and family to your family day care setting and plan for that child's participation in your program, you can also measure, which I think that's what Adelaide was letting us know, and share the success and those outcomes with the child's family. Those outcomes are the final key component to the successful inclusion.

Megan: You'd be aware that the evaluation and critical reflection are a part of the assessment and planning cycle and they're also essential to implementing an ILP for a child in your service. Evaluation and reflection are the way to track the child's progress towards those short-term objectives so that you can share what they've achieved, so the outcomes with family. First you have to decide what you're going to observe or track focusing on, say 3 short-term objectives that you and the child's family have written and decided on, in an individual learning plan that guides us. And once you know what you want the child to achieve, then you can collect just little observations throughout the day that can help you track their progress and you can report back to families when you see them at the end of the day. So I think we've got it down pat I think here in the different education and care settings we work in. The time of the day, usually the type of routine that that practice is done in, what the child did, it might have been painting with Tommy, turn taking with Sally, or said these 3 words, and then also with what prompts the level of support that child needed to achieve that thing. For example, these are things that we might find on our little run sheets; took turns with Ben rolling ball 4 turns with a verbal prompt, or 3 lots of two-word utterances during shared book reading and after I modelled and that child imitated that word, bag in locker after verbal reminder. It’s not a long learning story, it’s just little quick words that capture what happened on that day, just so I can check in with what I'm doing and what strategies I'm using, making sure that that's all working.

Sarah C: More detail on different types of observations that you might take and how to do that in practice, as we said before are available in webinar 2, the recording is available, or on developing and implementing those individual learning plans, we have a whole section in there on this review and evaluation in webinar 4. If you're interested to learn about those in a bit more detail, you can go back there, but when we think about it, the simplest way for you to collect information about a child's progress is what we want you to be doing, it doesn't have to be complex. Think about it now, when and where are you going to record the information, plan ahead and be prepared. Here's an example of some daily notes that an educator used at her family day care service, Jack and Jill Preschool Family Daycare, and both the family day care educator and she had a family day care educator assistant working with her as well, used the same strategies. So rather than expecting the assistant to read through the individual learning plan document each time she found it useful to note down, okay, what's the routine? When are we going to practice this? What's the objective we're focusing on? Morning free playtime, for example, we're working on turn taking. A quick summary of the strategy, so it didn't matter if it was the family day care educator or the family day care educator assistant, they would still be doing it, and then just some really brief jottings here, for example, ‘David asked A. to join Connect Four, play 8 minutes. Played lotto game with Sam, sat for 10 minutes.’ It doesn't have to be, as Megan said, a long learning story, and again here around shared book reading where they were really trying to capture how many words and what new words were coming out from that experience, and also if he could communicate in other ways. So by choosing and pointing, so chose ‘frog book’ “Green frog jumped”, an example of 3 words, 8 minutes he sat and engaged for. On another day ‘truck book' “went fast away”, 3 words, and mostly 3 words sentences and that was an example of one, and 6 minutes. Just your jottings that you can look back and see and track progress later.

Megan: So those positive outcomes don't only occur for the child with disability or delay. We'll hear again from Melissa about those longer-term outcomes of attending an inclusive family day care setting, not only for Katie and Katie's family, but also for her peers.

Melissa: Katie learnt so much from her peers at family day care. Watching and observing other children her own age and seeing how they coped in certain situations. We were really lucky all the other children were local from our area, which was really nice, and those friendships actually then endured on through primary school and those kids are now all at high school, they're at different high schools. But Katie actually still plays netball with a couple of the girls that she was at family day care with. It's been not only great for Katie, but for those girls, they've grown up with I guess an understanding and empathy for someone like Katie and they're really good at including her. It's awesome to see at netball where Katie is just one of the girls playing the game, even if she does struggle with coordination sometimes, she's included and those girls, they've got a lovely friendship.

Sarah C: The outcomes not just for the child and family, but for our community more broadly. Now some take home messages, what we would love you to remember. We've gone through a lot tonight, but if you went away just remembering this would be really pleased. So, inclusion involves access and participation, which leads to positive outcomes, we'd love to see the 3 of those altogether. Family day care is a unique setting that offers benefits to children with a disability or delay and their families, there's a reason why families choose to come to your services. You don't need to identify and overcome barriers to access on your own, you are part of a team. Even though it may not feel like it, you may look at those long day care services or preschool services and think, ‘no it's not like that’. We hope we've helped you tonight start thinking about the other people within your team and focus just on a few objectives at a time, put strategies into place, and track and celebrate that progress and success.

Megan: Reach out to your community, that's the one I like the most. Things for us to think about, is there anything that still concerns me when I think about potentially enrolling a child with disability or delay? Who can I turn to for support? Who are the people that can be a part of my team? And you've got the inclusion support professionals there as one of them, your scheme, your service coordinators, all of those people are there for you. What is one thing I can do within the next 3 weeks to help me take just another step towards having a family day care home that is inclusion ready and welcoming?

Sarah C: If you want, any other questions, feel free to contact us, and that's a link there to the Facebook group and feel free to follow us on social media as well. We share a lot of resources and information there.

Megan: Thank you everyone for joining us from all over New South Wales.

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