Coffs Coast Volunteer Call Out

Coffs Coast Volunteer Call Out

My name is Ellen, I am the Treasurer of Early Connections – Coffs Coast Volunteer Management Committee & also Mum to my gorgeous son Billy who is six years old and has a rare genetic condition.

I have been involved as a Client of Early Connections since 2019 and as a member of the Volunteer Management Committee since 2020. I am writing to you because we need more volunteers to sit on the Early Connections Coffs Coast Volunteer Management Committee and my experience has been so wonderful I am asking other parents to consider volunteering.

I know how busy young families are but volunteering with the Management Committee has afforded me so many wonderful opportunities:

  • The time contribution is minimal (1 meeting a month, held in the evenings)
  • Professional and Personal development opportunities from sitting on a Management Committee
  • The opportunity to network and collaborate with like minded individuals
  • A sense of personal satisfaction by giving back to the Coffs Harbour community and the wonderful team at Early Connections
  • A deeper understanding of how Early Connections operates

If you are interested in joining the Management Committee and would like more information please contact Caryn or Stacey on 66528080

Reimagine Australia

Reimagine Australia

Early Childhood Intervention Australia rebranded to Re-Imagine

Reimagine Australia’s vision remains to ensure that children with disability and/or developmental delay, and their families, have every opportunity to thrive. We do this by supporting families and service providers, whilst reimagining the communities in which families work, live and play through embedding strategic and inclusive design and culture at the core of the government and the business sector.

Check out the Reimagine Resources for families

In 2020, Reimagine Australia designed and delivered the first National Blueprint for Early Childhood Intervention to 2030, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, called ‘Reimagine Early Childhood: A National Action Plan to 2030’

Bush Fire Social Story

Bush Fire Social Story

Early Connections Alliance developed a Bush Fire Social Story to share with your children.

Social Stories are a social learning tool that supports the safe and meaningful exchange of information between parents, professionals, and people with autism of all ages. You can adapt the social story to your family by downloading the word document.

If you have any questions about Early Connections services during Bushfires or natural disasters that affect the recgion please contact your local office.


Children may wish to share a message of support for firefighters at High5AHero A place to celebrate and give a ‘high 5’ to all the amazing heroes fighting fires, rescuing homes, offering up beds, donating goods, and feeding and supporting those hard at work to protect our towns. Post your note/photo/video of thanks to celebrate these amazing heroes and show our gratitude for all the incredible work they are doing #high5ahero.

Visit ABC Mid North Coast News for ongoing updates 

Additional useful links for children and families

The Team Around Saya

The Team Around Saya


Best Practice in Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) the Team around the child

Families who visit Early Connections may hear our team talk about the transdisciplinary model.

This blog helps you understand a little more about how our team works collaboratively using the transdisciplinary model to support your child.

What is the transdisciplinary model

The NDIS considers the transdisciplinary model as best practice when supporting children, with disability and developmental delay, from 0-6 years of age.

The transdisciplinary model is also called the team around the child.

Early Connections Alliance adopt this approach for all our families with children aged 0-6 on the Mid North Coast.

This means that each child and family who attend Early Connections is partnered with a Key Worker. The Key Worker supports the family and coordinates the Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) team around the child.

Extended family and other members of the community, including Preschool Educators, are also considered part of the team around each child.

Why is the team around the child so important

Families and children have unique needs, so the team around the child will look different for each family.

“We know that Early Childhood Intervention service providers who are using key workers and the team around the child model are delivering best practice, and that this is recognised and promoted by the NDIS” said Caryn Maher Program Manager, Coffs Coast.

The ultimate goal of the transdisciplinary model is to support children to be the best they can be, to build acceptance within families and the community, and to guide and support families so they can sustain the energy to do the work that is needed.

How the transdisciplinary model helped Saya and her family

4 year old Saya (check age) was referred to Early Connections Coffs Coast when she was diagnosed with autism at a young age. 

“Diagnosis can be a big shock for families when children are very young, particularly if it isn’t obvious and wasn’t identified at birth,” said Anne Craigan, Key Worker and Early Childhood Special Education Teacher.  

When Saya first started at Early Connections, Anne was the main point of contact to support Saya and her family. Often Melissa,  Saya’s mum, just wanted to talk and ask questions. This was a good way for Melissa to better understand Saya’s unique support needs and adjust to working with the early childhood intervention team.

“Early Connections have been amazing. They want what is going to be the best for you and your family. The team we have put together and the work that we have all done has supported Saya to progress as much as she has.

Saya used to scream and self harm, it was chaos in our house and now Saya is much calmer. Early Connections have taught me so that I know exactly what I need to do. They have so much knowledge and they are really willing to give it to you. Saya has severe Autism and when she was diagnosed I was really out of my depth. I was grieving and I didn’t know what I was doing. I tell them sometimes, they saved me,”  said Melissa, Saya’s mum.

Why is having one main point of contact important?

The importance of having one point of contact in the early years means the complex needs of children and families can be addressed in a more personalised way.

If a family sees multiple professionals without the key worker coordination the service can be disjointed, confusing and overwhelming for families and children. The key worker model ensures families have the opportunity to form a trusting relationship with one person.

For a child with disabilities and delays in the early years, a one on one relationship with their key worker ensures consistency across service delivery.

“Saya’s mum knows she can call me at any time. We talked a lot during the first year. Melissa called me anytime she needed to talk. We formed a close trusting relationship,” added Anne.

Coordinating the team around the child

As the Key Worker, Anne coordinates the ‘team around the child’ to ensure Saya’s goals are being met. Anne coordinates education and therapy sessions so they are customised to meet Saya’s needs and goals.

Anne’s work includes bringing in additional therapists to Saya’s team. Saya’s team now includes Occupational Therapist Ann Crane and Speech Pathologist Kanti Saraswati.

An additional Occupational Therapist, Julia Doust, also has an established relationship with Saya and her family. This is essential for ease and consistency if team members are on leave.

“The team around the child works because everyone who supports Saya is working together and is focusing on the same goals. We all bring our different viewpoints and professional expertise about Early Childhood best practice, health and education to the conversation which creates a more effective support system for Saya and her family,” said Anne.

Saya’s team regularly updates each other about Saya’s progress duringcontact sessions with the family. The team collaborates during case conference meetings and shares notes the whole team can access.

Early Intervention Coffs Harbour

“We also do joint sessions with Saya’s family. This is where we can see the team around the child working best. With Saya we can’t work on speech without working on her sensory needs, which is where the OT comes in.  You can’t do one without the other, so they have to be integrated,” said Anne. 

Anne also works as the Special Education Teacher within the Team and supported Saya’s transition to Preschool. Anne coaches Early Childhood Educators at Saya’s Preschool to support inclusion.

“When Saya started preschool I visited the centre to share information about Saya and to make sure Melissa was able to build a relationship with the staff. Sometimes parents don’t feel happy about something that is happening at preschool and they don’t feel confident to discuss it with preschool staff.  During these situations Melissa might call me and because Early Connections has a long history of working relationships with many preschools in this area we can contact the preschool to ask how things are going.”Anne Craigan, Key Worker and Early Childhood Special Education Teacher

When and where can you access a key worker to support your child

Children ages 0-7 will need to contact your local NDIS ECEI Provider who will assist you to apply for NDIS services. Northcott is the Provider on the Mid North Coast.

If eligible for NDIS you will be contacted by an NDIS ECEI Provider to take part in a planning meeting and create a plan. Your NDIS plan is submitted to the NDIA for approval.

Once you have an NDIS Plan, contact an Early Childhood Intervention provider like Early Connections. 

We build a team around your child to make sure your family receives Excellence in Early Childhood Intervention. With 30 years experience connecting families to the best supports on the Mid North Coast you’re in the right place. Our team of experienced professionals work with you to give your family the support you need early to maximise your child’s potential.

We work in a number of ways following ECI Best Practice Guidelines to best suit your child’s needs. We offer individualised sessions for you and your child to help your child learn, grow and thrive.

Resources with more information about best practice early childhood intervention

National Disability Insurance Scheme brings more support for children with disabilities

National Disability Insurance Scheme brings more support for children with disabilities

Six year old, Janalia has Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy and before the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) she received Better Start funding.

“The Better Start funding meant Janalia had access to the wonderful therapists at Early Connections on a monthly basis,” said Janalia’s mum Alunya Wilkinson.

Alunya admits before her daughters NDIS plan was approved she was in a panic. But she says parents shouldn’t be concerned.

“Janalia is now getting more support than ever and she is becoming so much more independent all because of the NDIS,” said Alunya.

Early Connections Alliance offers Early Childhood Intervention for children aged 0 – 12 with developmental delay or disabilities. We currently support families through the process of transitioning to the NDIS.

“My mind is definitely more at ease, thanks to Early Connections and the NDIS everyday living is easier,” said Alunya.

The Manning and Great Lakes team have successfully transitioned most of their families, including Janalia, to the NDIS.

The scheme became available in Manning and Great Lakes 12 months ago and from July 2017 is rolling out across the Mid North Coast from Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour.

Setting goals and creating your NDIS plan

Alunya met with her Early Connections Key Worker to map out 6-12 months of goals for Janalia.

“That was the hardest part really, prioritising goals and ultimately how you could achieve them,” said Alunya.

Thanks to Early Connections the process was simple and relaxed. The questions were direct and easy to answer to help coordinate the individual plan.

“It was a great help having the Early Connections Key Worker in the meeting. Someone who knew my child and what she needed and who could ensure nothing was left out,” added Alunya.

Early Connections services include speech therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, child psychology and early childhood teachers.

“The day I received the phone call to say Janalia’s plan had been approved, and to then hear what the package amount was, was the best news ever.

As a mother you want to give your child the absolute best and now Janalia is able to see therapists weekly, for them to visit her in the school environment, talking to the teacher one-on-one about the best ways for her to learn.”

Early Connections – your Registered NDIS Provider Mid North Coast

Early Connections developed a strong action plan and key learnings from the rollout of the NDIS in Manning and Great Lakes.

Our teams across the Mid North Coast are ready to help families and children like Janalia navigate the NDIS.

Connect with us for more information. As a registered NDIS provider Early Connections can help you:

  1. Connect to the NDIS
  2. Create your NDIS plan
  3. Choose your Early Connections individualised therapies
Mid North Coast Early Intervention Professionals to present at State Conference in Sydney

Mid North Coast Early Intervention Professionals to present at State Conference in Sydney

Director of Early Connections Port Macquarie, Beth Todd, is presenting at the Early Childhood Intervention Australia (ECIA) Conference in Sydney on 26th May 2017.

The conference themed ‘Beyond Possibilities – Investing in the Future,’ gives early childhood professionals an opportunity to understand the NDIS and the impact on children with a developmental delay or disability.

Beth and her colleague Caryn Maher, Manager at Early Connections Coffs Coast will present at the ECIA Conference about the unique formation of the Early Connections Alliance.

National Disability Insurance Scheme – more choice for families

“With the rollout of the NDIS in our region this July families will have more choice about how they support their children’s disabilities,” said Beth.

But the new National Disability Insurance Scheme brings unique challenges to the sector. “It’s a new and unchartered landscape for not for profit service providers who were previously government funded,” said Beth.

Seeing the need to build stronger partnerships, five forward thinking Early Intervention Programs from Taree to Coffs formed an Alliance.

They rebranded their services as the Early Connections Alliance in 2016, a network of five not for profit services including Early Connections Port Macquarie/Hastings.

The teams have worked collaboratively for 18 months to develop a strong and connected Early Childhood Intervention Network on the Mid North Coast.

Accept Difference Campaign promotes inclusion

Producer Nancy Sposato will present alongside the team at the State ECIA Conference about the highly successful 2016 Accept Difference campaign, an initiative of Early Connections.

“Accept Difference is a social awareness campaign which began with a television commercial based on a family’s experience. The campaign focuses on promoting positive personal stories and examples of inclusion. The television commercial has received 8.5 million views online and has been translated into several languages,” said Beth.

Accept Difference and Early Connections are Finalists in the Disability Industry Innovation Awards 2017  and the ECIA Excellence Awards  2017. The Excellence Awards celebrate and acknowledge teams and organisations that demonstrate excellence, passion, vision and a commitment to assisting children with developmental delay or disability and their families to achieve their goals. Award winners will be announced on 25 May 2017.

“We’re delighted the campaign is shining a light on understanding disabilities and inclusive communities. Early intervention is crucial but inclusive communities throughout a persons life is essential, we need to look beyond the early years,” added Beth.