There are a variety of Early Childhood Education services operating in New Zealand, including Kindergartens, Kōhanga Reo, A’oga ‘Amata and other Pacific childcare centres, early childhood education and care centres, home-based education and care centres and playcentres. It is best to look around your area for a service before you actually need one, because many Early Childhood Education services will have waiting lists.
As with all children, it is important that planning begins early, so that any supports needed are in place when the child starts attending. Visiting a variety of centres to discuss how children with disabilities are included and asking other parents of children with disabilities about their experiences will help with planning.
The Ministry of Education, Special Education is responsible for providing support for children with special education needs attending early childhood education, primary and secondary school.
Parents with a pre-schooler with a disability can talk to their family doctor, paediatrician, Plunket nurse, Parents as First Teachers educator, Iwi Health Authority or early childhood education centre about making a referral to the local Ministry of Education, Special Education. Parents can also contact the Special Education office directly.
The Early Intervention Service provides specialist support for children whose disability significantly impacts on their ability to participate and learn. Early Intervention staff can work with your child at home, at their early childhood education service or elsewhere from soon after they are born, or from when their needs are identified, until they start school, if necessary.
Ministry of Education specialist support can be provided from speech language therapists, early intervention teachers, psychologists, advisors on deaf children and Māori cultural advisors.
The Ministry of Health can provide support for audiologists, physiotherapists, paediatricians, dieticians and occupational therapists. These supports should be discussed with the local District Health Board Child Development team or your paediatrician.