Early intervention & Intellectual Disability

When a young child is diagnosed with a disability such an Intellectual Disability(ID) they are able to access services specially designed for children with developmental delays. These services are called Early Intervention(EI). Children with other disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD)  or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD)  and many more children also benefit from EI.


For the young child with ID these services will be designed to address the child’s needs in the areas of:

  • Communication
  • Daily Living Skills
  • Socialization
  • Motor Skills
  • Education

When your child is assessed, the level of their cognitive functioning and adaptive behaviour is measured. These results and their implications will be discussed with you by the psychologist and or the paediatrician. Cognitive functioning refers to your child’s IQ score obtained eg:

  • Mild Intellectual Disability IQ – 55 to 70
  • Moderate Intellectual Disability – IQ 30 to 55
  • Severe Intellectual Disability – IQ below 30

Adaptive behaviour refers to how your child uses their cognitive functioning to manage in the areas of:

  • Communication
  • Daily Living Skills
  • Socialization
  • Motor Skills

Intellectual disability is defined in levels- mild, moderate or severe and how this will affect your child. Your child’s EI program will be tailored to meet his/her individual needs.

Typically developing children reach milestones at particular times with some variance. When reading the following milestones, it will give you an idea of what skill areas your child may or may not have and could potentially become the focus for the EI program.

By 2 years of age a child will be typically displaying the following:

  • Follows simple instructions- get teddy
  • Can link words to simple things- cup, spoon, book
  • Can imitate words and actions- hip hip hooray!
  • Uses 2- word utterances- drink muma, doggy eat
  • Has a vocabulary of greater than 10 words
  • Plays successfully with simple toys- pushes a toy car, gives teddy a cuddle
  • Walks steadily
  • Can maintain previously learnt skills

By 3 years of age a child will be typically displaying the following:

  • Speaks in simple sentences- dog is sleeping
  • Follows simple instructions- eat your toast
  • Plays successfully with simple toys- can complete a simple jigsaw puzzle
  • Plays happily with other children
  • Can engage in pretend play with other children
  • Has eye contact with others
  • Is steady on their feet
  • Can maintain previous learnt skills

By 4 years of age a child will be typically displaying the following:

  • Enjoyment in playing with others
  • Happily interacts with others outside the family circle
  • Engages happily in conversation and can retell a story
  • Follows a three step direction- Get your hat, get your ball, go outside to play
  • Draws and scribbles with crayons and pencils
  • Speaks clearly
  • Can maintain previously learnt skills

By 5 years of age a child will be typically be displaying the following:

  • Enjoyment of social interactions with others
  • Can regulate their behaviour
  • Can focus on activities for more than 5 minutes
  • Responds easily to others
  • Can tell the difference between real and make believe
  • Has a wide range of emotions
  • Can say first and last name, knows their address
  • Can do daily tasks without help- go to the toilet, clean teeth, wash and dry hands, get dressed, feed themselves
  • Can maintain previously learnt skills.

Working towards the development of these skill areas will help prepare your child for school and for their everyday functioning. Using the milestones will help you to organise your thoughts and questions, to assist in gaining the services your child might need. Our Early Intervention Checklist can help you with this.


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