Early intervention

Early intervention is designed to support young children who are at risk of developmental delay and those children with disabilities whose impairment has been identified.

Early intervention aims to promote the inclusion and participation of children with disabilities and their families in their communities. It may be provided through specialist health or education service mechanisms, or through less formal community based mechanisms.

The majority of available resources relating to early intervention in low and middle-income country settings are aimed at community level practitioners, and not at the national policy and programming level. However, early intervention is often included as a component of Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) and in health or education policy and programming and should be considered as interrelated.

See also: Education, Community Based Rehabilitation, Health

United Nations Economic Social and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) (2009) Inclusion of children with disabilities: the early childhood imperative

This two page policy brief discusses early childhood development in general, as well as the main approaches to responding to the developmental needs of young children with disabilities through early assessment and intervention. In doing so, it provides investment and policy recommendations supported by short research examples from developing country settings. Note that the resource was developed prior to the WHO/World Bank World Report on Disability (2011), and thus underestimates the prevalence of disability.

Fernald L et. al. (2009) Examining early child development in low-income countries: a toolkit for the assessment of children in the first five years of life

This World Bank toolkit provides information on early childhood development and its measurement, and recommendations for standardising assessment strategies for child development in developing countries. This is relevant to the design, monitoring and evaluation frameworks of early childhood development initiatives, including early intervention programs, from a project to health system level. It is also useful for early childhood development research.

World Health Organization (WHO) (2012) Developmental difficulties in early childhood: prevention, early identification, assessment and intervention in low and middle income countries: a review

This review compiles the wealth of available information in regards to developmental difficulties in resource poor settings and summarises them in a systematic framework to be used by health care providers, policy and program staff. It features information from the WHO Developmental Difficulties in Early Childhood Survey, which provides information on various national health system responses to the prevention, detection, assessment and early management of developmental difficulties. Note this review does not provide in depth, impairment specific guidance, and early childhood is defined as 0-3 years.

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Picture of a girl from Bangladesh sitting on a stool, putting wooden shapes on a peg. The CBR worker is squatting beside her.

Photo: Briana Wilson

Howa* from Bangladesh is having fun learning to use her hands by playing with a toy as part of her community based early intervention program. Howa says "Physiotherapy is like punishment but therapeutic play is always interesting! I learn many things with the toys." (*Pseudonym used) Copyright: CBM/Wilson