Early Intervention Programs (EIP) in Nova Scotia are designed to deliver services to young children who are diagnosed with, or at risk for developmental delay. These services help both the child and their family from birth to when the child enters public school. There are approximately 63 000 children ages 0 – 6 in Nova Scotia (Stats Canada 2012).
Research has shown that early identification of the needs of young children, followed by appropriate intervention programs can make a significant difference. Evidence shows that the early years in a child’s life are critical in terms of their development, health and well being. There currently 17 EIP centres in Nova Scotia providing support to over 900 children. Referrals to the program most often come through the IWK, where concerns are identified at birth, or in the very early years. Some, but not all children who are referred have been diagnosed with autism, Down’s Syndrome or other challenges. Access to programs is at no cost to the family, and includes care services, home visits, transition to school planning and family support.
In 2013, the Liberal government made a commitment to increase both support and funding to Early Intervention Programs. This commitment was made to continue the support to families, but most important, to address the waitlist of children and families who need the services provided, but were unable to access it.
One of my first actions as Minister of Education was to completely review where, what, how and by whom the Early Intervention Programs were being delivered. The results of this review showed a need for more Early Interventionists (trained staff who deliver programs). With a maximum case load of 20 children, we immediately posted positions to hire additional staff. We will monitor the waitlist as it is a commitment of our Government to ensure that those children who need early intervention to receive it before they enter Primary. These Early Intervention Programs have been under-funded by previous governments. I am proud to be part of a Liberal Government that is investing in direct services for children and families in need of Early Intervention Programs.
Karen Casey, MLA
Minister of Education & Early Childhood Development