What supports are available at preschool for children on the spectrum?
Autistic children in preschool are entitled to the same supports whether they are officially diagnosed with autism or not. Early Years Practitioners can access support for children through the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), which ensures that children with disabilities can access the ECCE programme. Access and Inclusion support is applied for by the Early Years Service, in partnership with the child’s parent / guardian / carer.
There are seven levels of support within AIM:
- an inclusive culture
- information for parents and providers
- a qualified and confident workforce
- expert early years educational advice and support
- equipment, appliances and minor alteration grants
- therapeutic intervention
- additional assistance in the preschool room
Levels 1 – 3 are universal supports for all children in ECCE settings, while levels 4 – 7 are targeted supports for some children in the same setting.
Some children may also access autism-specific Early Years education outside of the ECCE scheme, if recommended by the child’s team. There are two main types of this;
- Early Intervention Classes – these are usually located within or attached to a DES-funded national school
- Private autism-specific preschools, which are usually funded through the Home Tuition Grant. Places in these preschools will only be funded for those children who cannot access a suitable place in an Early Intervention Class.