Everyday inclusion at Leeton benefits everyone
Ensuring every child feels included and supported to learn in ways that suit their individual needs is at the heart of Goodstart Leeton.
Educators at the centre have a passion for helping all children, no matter what their needs are.
This was sparked for the first time when planning how they would support a little girl with autism.
“When we started working through how to support this little girl we went through the process of applying for inclusion development funding (IDF) and we learned so much, in particular how valuable this extra support is for children who need it,” said acting centre director Nicole Wilkinson.
“It is important for children to feel part of their room, no matter what their needs, and by having that extra inclusion support they can be included in learning experiences they might otherwise struggle with,” she said.
The Inclusion support services the centre offers children is tailored to suit all of the children within the environment, both individuals and as groups. These inclusion support plans include occupational therapists, speech pathologists and extra educators.
The flow-on effect of this support is the extra knowledge educators gain which they can apply across the centre to help all children.
“As well as ensuring all children get the best possible start in life, focusing on inclusion has helped all the members of our team better understand all children,” Ms Wilkinson said.
“We are lucky enough to have a team who are so passionate about inclusion and they now all have better awareness of why some children do things and how to support them.”
When children with additional needs start at Goodstart Leeton the team is dedicated to getting them any support they can through the process of applying for additional funding.
“We are all very well versed on the criteria for funding- what support is available and how they can access it,” Ms Wilkinson said.
“For example, we had one child start with us who was diagnosed with a moderate speech delay and although that may seem like just a small thing it has such big consequences for that child if it isn’t addressed and supported,” she said.
“It is important that this child is heard and that she gets the speech support she needs and we were able to provide that support for her.”
Some of the support assistance Goodstart Leeton offers children includes additional educators in three out of four of their rooms, working collaboratively with speech pathologists and occupational therapists who visit the centre for children who need support, and incorporating a holistic approach to inclusion.
“The best thing about our support is that it happens in conjunction with our educators, inclusion specialists (speech pathologists and occupational therapists) and families,” Ms Wilkinson said.
“So our children get that real triangle of support that is consistent in all contexts of their lives.
“It is so important when you are in this support mindset that you know everything about the child and you work closely with the family, so you know about their home life, what services they are already receiving from professionals outside the home and how we can create a consistent environment within the service.”
Ms Wilkinson said constant communication was key, so educators could continuously monitor and adjust the level of assistance the children received.
“The children’s needs are always changing so constant communication is essential,” she said.
Social inclusion national lead Penny Markham said children who have disabilities and additional needs come to Goodstart centres every day.
“Our task as educators is to ensure all children feel a sense of belonging. We do this by welcoming each and every child, understanding who they and how they learn to ensure they get the very best early learning experience we can offer,” she said.