Early Intervention Services and Support

Early intervention support is available for children from the time they are born until they are settled in school. This page describes the services and support that are available from the Ministry of Education, Special Education and other providers accredited by the Ministry.

Special education needs are defined as those that cannot be met within a regular early childhood setting, home or family, without extra support. The need may be a physical disability, a sensory impairment, a learning or communication delay, a social, emotional or behavioural difficulty, or a combination of these.

Early intervention specialists and support staff from the Ministry of Education, Special Education and other providers accredited by the Ministry, work with children with moderate and severe special education needs. This support is available for children until they are settled in school. It can be provided:

  • at home
  • in early childhood education settings, such as kindergartens, kohanga reo and early childhood education centres
  • as children start school.

A parent who thinks their child needs extra support can talk to:

  • their family doctor
  • Plunket
  • their Parents as First Teachers educator
  • Iwi Health Authority
  • staff at their early childhood education centre
  • an education specialist at their closest Ministry of Education, Special Education office.

If a parent or any of the above believe that a child needs additional support from the Ministry of Education's early intervention team or an accredited provider, they can contact their local Ministry of Education, Special Education office for more information.

Concerns should be discussed with the child's parents/guardians as their consent is required before an early intervention team can work with the child.

The early intervention team

Early intervention staff come from a range of disciplines. They include:

  • Speech-language therapists 
  • Early intervention teachers 
  • Psychologists 
  • Advisors on deaf children 
  • Resource Teachers: Vision 
  • Kaitakawaenga (Māori liaison advisors)
  • Education support workers.

The early intervention teams work collaboratively with families/whānau, educators and specialists from other agencies to strengthen and extend children's educational learning. The teams have an in-depth understanding of early childhood development and knowledge of special education in early childhood.

Assessment and planning

Early intervention specialists work alongside families/whānau, educators, other agencies and specialists to:

  • identify needs early in the child's life
  • assess the child's skills and needs
  • set goals for the child
  • develop a plan to achieve the goals
  • provide expertise and tools to support the plan
  • agree on new goals as the child progresses.

Services can include:

  • guidance for teachers and parents
  • using techniques based around playing to teach new skills
  • designing strategies to improve social and learning skills and behaviour management
  • speech-language therapy
  • direct teaching support
  • the development of special resources such as communication aids
  • co-ordinating physiotherapy, occupational therapy and equipment.

Further reading

Much More Than Words - Monitoring and Encouraging Communication Development in Early Childhood (2001).

Who to contact for more information

For more information about Ministry of Education, Special Education funding and services, please

Content last updated: 21 May 2015