Special Thanks to Ann Crane

Special Thanks to Ann Crane

The Early Connections Alliance extends our thanks and farewell to Ann Crane who resigned from the Early Connections Coffs Coast Management Committee.

Ann was instrumental in the early days of starting Early Childhood Intervention in Coffs Harbour and has been on the management committee since day one.  Ann has dedicated over thirty years to the organisation and to the children and families of the Coffs Coast. During this time Ann has worked passionately and shown selfless dedication to the organisation and the team.

Over the years Ann has formed great friendships and built strong community connections. Early Connections Coffs Coast presented Ann with flowers and a farewell gift.

“Ann will be greatly missed by the Early Connections team and we are all very sad to see her go. Ann was instrumental in the formation of Coffs Harbour Early Childhood Intervention Service which is now Early Connections Alliance. Families have benefited from her Occupational Therapy and her experience working with families has been invaluable during her time on the Management Committee.

As not for profit organisation our management committee members are all volunteers who give up their time to support the organisation strategically. We are grateful for Ann’s long service and dedication,” said Caryn Maher Manager Early Connections – Coffs Coast.

Congratulations on 30 years of service and all the best for the future Ann.


Cathy Mannix 25 years service

Cathy Mannix 25 years service

Congratulations Cathy Mannix celebrating 25 years as an Early Childhood Intervention Teacher with Early Connections – Manning and Great Lakes.

We are so fortunate to have Cathy’s experience and caring nature as part of our wonderful team. Cathy has supported so many families over the years and helped many children in the region to reach their developmental goals.

Cathy’s goals have always been to work towards getting children as ready for life after their pre-school years in the best way possible, particularly socially and emotionally, and to support their parents and carers to guide them on this journey.

Thank you Cathy 👍 25 Years Service

A musical welcome to Phoebe

A musical welcome to Phoebe

A warm welcome to Phoebe Thompson-Star Music Therapist for Port Macquarie Hastings and Kempsey Early Connections. Phoebe has a Masters in Creative Music Therapy and is a Registered Music Therapist with the Australian Music Therapy Association (AMTA). Phoebe has worked and performed throughout Australia as well as overseas in Canada over the past 10 years

Tell us more about your experience prior to joining the team

I hold a Bachelor in Theatre (Music Theatre) and a diploma in Classical ballet teaching. As a music therapist I have experience working with clients across the lifespan with a range of presentations including: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Down Syndrome, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Global Developmental Delay (GDD), Anxiety, Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, Cerebral Palsy, Early Onset Dementia and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Why is your area of Early intervention important for children:

Rhythm is intrinsic to us as human beings, which creates such a unique connection to and bond with music. Finding and exploring this connection gives children, in their crucial developmental periods, the chance to use music to connect to the outside world and help make sense of how they think, feel and react to what occurs around them. Music is incredibly beneficial for supporting development as well, as it is one of the only mediums that activates every part of the brain at once and is what we like to call ‘a total brain workout’.

What do you love most about your job:

I love that I get to share my passion for music every day, and use it to help my clients grow, develop, heal and reconnect. I employ a very strengths-based, resource-orientated approach which really brings out the best in my clients and I love watching their creativity flourish and develop as they work towards achieving their goals.

What are some of the most rewarding elements of your job:

To see the look on a child’s face the first time they touch a piano, or strum a ukulele and sing away their worries to a song they absolutely love is an absolute joy to experience. Knowing that I then get to use this newfound love for making music to help them grow and development and reach their goals is incredibly rewarding.

What do you feel you personally bring to your role:

With a background in singing, dance and drama, I love to incorporate all of these creative arts into my sessions. Whether we are exploring all the funny sounds a voice can make, daggy dancing around the room or acting out extravagant versions of ‘Bear hunt’, I like to let my client’s imaginations run wild and use their strengths and interests to target their unique goals.

Anything on your bucket list you would like to share with us:

So far, I’ve ticked off skydiving over the Swiss Alps and Bungy jumping in New Zealand…Next on the list is a solo backpacking trip around South America!

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