Early Childhood Disability Services

Connect offers a suite of early childhood intervention programs to children 0-8 with disabilities and their families.

The suite includes:

Screening

Connect offers developmental screening for children 0-6 years. Parents or Early Childhood teachers can request a developmental screener when they have concerns about a child's development.

The screening process includes a parent interview to share concerns and other relevant information; play-based observations of the child to see how the child communicates, moves, socializes and learns; feedback and any necessary referrals to other community services. Children found to have a delay after an assessment are eligible for our early intervention programs.

Home Visits

Home-visiting involves an Early Childhood Special Educator visiting families at home. It provides an opportunity for families to talk about goals for their children and to develop strategies to assist their children's development. These strategies include role modelling play, brainstorming ideas of how best to support their skills, observations and discussions. The focus is usually on play, social skills, communication, sensory and motor skills. Therefore, visits are flexible and individualised. Each visit can last for up to an hour. The home visitor can also assist parents with accessing other community support services.

Early Learning Program

The Early Learning Program offers a specialised preschool class that prepares children for integration into other early childhood services or schools.

Activities and experiences are planned in response to the children's needs and goals for their development. These goals are arrived at via a collaborative process focusing on family concerns and priorities and involving discussion between parents, staff and other involved services.

Emphasis is on building the skills necessary for a smooth transition to preschool or day-care. The focus is on communication skills, social and self-help skills and developing confidence and familiarity with regular preschool routines, using the supportive and often less threatening environment of a small group.

Itinerant Inclusion Support

Itinerant Inclusion Support offers professional advice and support to staff working with children with disabilities in early childhood services. Support can include:

  • Identifying the child's needs, strengths and interests in the setting
  • Collaboration with other agencies and professionals in relation to the child
  • Individualised Education Programs with specific goals, objectives, teaching strategies and evaluation
  • Embedding a child's therapy programs into the centre's curriculum
  • Staff training and mentoring focusing on communication systems, fostering social skills and addressing sensory processing skills
  • Modelling positive behaviour management strategies
  • Securing additional funding to enhance the child to staff ratio of the centre
  • Access to professional development
  • Access to Resource library
  • Access to equipment through the Toy Library
  • Facilitating the transition to school process

Helping Children with Autism - FaHCSIA

The Australian Government's 'Helping Children with Autism' Package addresses the need for support and services for children on the Autism Spectrum.

Families with a young child (0-7 years of age) with a diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder can receive up to $12,000 of therapy services. Connect Child and Family Services Inc is the lead agency of a consortium of therapists approved to provide therapy under the 'Helping Children with Autism' funding.

Consortium members include:

  • Belinda Hill Speech Pathologists
  • Danielle Coghlan Speech Pathologist
  • Chatterbox Speech Pathology
  • Julie Basle Speech Pathologist
  • Kylie Witt Speech Pathologist
  • Bronwyn Shead Speech Pathologist
  • Skills for Kids Speech and Occupational Therapy

For further details call Ruby Wright 4758 9966

Better Start - FaCHSIA

The Better Start for Children with Disability (Better Start) initiative provides eligible children access to early intervention funding of up to $12,000.

Eligible children must be registered before their 6th birthday and families will have until their child turns seven to use their early intervention funding.

Eligible children have been diagnosed with: Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Fragile X Syndrome, or a moderate or greater vision or hearing impairment, including deafblindness.Check website for other eligible diagnosis.

Up to 35% of a child's early intervention funding can be used for the purchase of resources. This means that up to $4,200 in total out of the $12,000 can be used for resources.

Resources that are purchased with Better Start funds must:

  • be recommended by the child's Better Start service provider, and
  • be directly linked with the early intervention services being delivered to the child, and/or
  • provide support for the delivery of interventions at home.

For further details call Ruby Wright 4758 9966

My Time

Support groups including grief support and the 'My Time' group for parents with children with a disability/chronic illness (in partnership with Playgroup NSW and the Parenting Research Centre Vic).

Kids on the Move (KOM)

'Kids on the Move' is a Nepean wide project that provides intensive transition to school assistance for high support needs children entering mainstream Kindergarten classes. It involves children visiting schools with staff members from their early childhood services, up to 11 times prior to and after school commencement.

The early childhood staff members work alongside children, their new teachers and support staff to pass on skills and knowledge. Children's therapists also work with them in their early childhood settings in the year prior to and after school commencement. The early childhood staff members work alongside children, their new teachers and support staff to pass on skills and knowledge. Children's therapists also work with them in their early childhood settings in the year prior to starting school as part of the transition program.

This project is a collaboration between Connect Child and Family Services, Department of Education, Catholic Education Office and members of the Early Childhood Intervention Coordination Project (ECICP).

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Possum Early Childhood Centre

Possum Early Childhood Centre provides an inclusive and flexible educational program to children aged 3-6 years within a purpose built environment that supports, nurtures and facilitates learning.

Our highly qualified and experienced staff work in partnership with you and your child to tailor a program that meets you and your child's needs. We are co-educators with families and children.

We aim to challenge your child's mind, skills and interests through an exciting program of activities and projects - including both the inside and outside environment.

Our program reflects our commitment to current developments in early childhood education. In particular, we are guided by the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) which is the nationally recognised framework for early childhood settings.

We model respect, care and appreciation for the natural environment by embedding sustainability into our daily routines and practices. This includes children growing and harvesting vegetables, cooking and recycling.

The daily program is a balance of child led and teacher supported learning. We create learning environments that encourage children to explore, solve problems, create and construct.

Possum Early Childhood Centre operates Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.30pm, 49 weeks of the year.

For further information or to arrange a visit, contact Nimmi Woods 4758 9966.

Child Care Benefit (CCB) and Child Care Rebate (CCR) is available to families.

Click Here to view more information on the website www.mychild.gov.au/childcarerebate

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Hazelwood Early Childhood Centre

Under the leadership of a highly experienced early childhood director Hazelwood offers a unique and nurturing environment for your child. The daily program combines child led and teacher supported learning, with the highest quality care. We create learning environments that encourage children to explore, solve problems, create and construct. Respect, care, and appreciation for the natural environment are also an important part of our daily routines and practices.

Hazelwood's early learning environment reflects its commitment to current developments in early childhood education and are guided by the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). This is the national framework developed to guide the education and care of young children in early childhood settings.

Hazelwood operates Monday to Friday, 7.00am to 6.00pm, 50 weeks per year.

For further information or to arrange a visit, contact Lil De Bono 4758 7382.

Child Care Benefit (CCB) and Child Care Rebate (CCR) is available to families.

Click Here to view more information on the website www.mychild.gov.au/childcarerebate

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Possum Patch Early Childhood Centre

At Possum Patch we have an intimate setting, where we aim to provide a high quality nurturing learning environment that is guided by the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), the nationally recognised framework for early childhood settings.

Our team of qualified educators aim to provide children with choice in their activities based on their interests and developmental levels, challenging and supporting children in their learning. We have a holistic approach to children’s learning, respecting and valuing input from our families and community.

Our program includes both indoor and outdoor activities, and encourages children to become socially responsible. We place a strong focus on the environment, encouraging sustainable practice where ever possible.

Possum Patch operates Monday to Friday, 7.00am to 6.00pm, 49 weeks per year.

For further information or to arrange a visit, contact Rachelle Ryan 4787 1202.

Child Care Benefit (CCB) and Child Care Rebate (CCR) is available to families.

Click Here to view more information on the website www.mychild.gov.au/childcarerebate

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Heatherbrae

A number of Connect staff and families have long held the vision of creating a warm, welcoming and inspiring space where grown-ups and children can form friendships, have fun, learn or teach new skills and just “be” and where parents can be supported to help their children thrive. A small group began meeting in early 2009 to think about where and how this could happen. We are very excited to announce that we now have a beautiful building that we can begin to transform into such a space.

In September 2013, the Connect Community Hub team began moving into Heatherbrae, a gracious heritage listed house in Lawson. The Possum Toy Library, PERLS and the YAWN Program will be based in Heatherbrae and our Play Therapist has a dedicated room here. We will also have regular activities for families to attend together. The meeting room will be available for hire on weekends and at night.

We encourage families to let us know what activities and resources would be useful and we will be working with local services to complement the many wonderful and varied activities and resources they already offer.

We are looking for volunteers to help with the day to day running of the Toy Library. Carers with children are welcome as volunteers. Toy Library lending will be available in 2014.

Heatherbrae is currently open:

Monday 9.30am - 4.00pm

Tuesday 9.30am - 4.00pm

Wednesday 12.30pm - 4.00pm

Thursday 9.30am - 4.00pm

These hours will extend as soon as possible. Drop in for a play, a cuppa and a chat.

Heatherbrae is located at 6 Benang Street, Lawson

For enquiries please contact Jeanette at Heatherbrae on 4759 1462 or 0425 332 122

Click Here to read Paul Prichard's speech from the Official Opening of Heatherbrae in November 2013

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Possum Community Toy Library

Possum Community Toy Library provides a large range of toys and resources for children aged 0-12 including construction equipment, wooden puzzles, baby toys, ride-ons, musical instruments, toys encouraging creative play, CDs and some larger equipment. A range of specialist toys for children with additional needs is also available.

Membership allows you to borrow from our library located in Hazelbrook or from our mobile toy library van. The Toy Library Van makes regular visits to various sites throughout the Blue Mountains every week. View the Playgroups Map below to find a location.

Click here to view the Playgroups Map

Click here to download the Membership Form

Click here to download the Conditions of Borrowing

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Parents and Educators Resource Library (PERLS)

The PERLS Library provides up-to-date resources covering a wide range of materials relating to parenting, child development, behaviour guidance, nutrition and health, starting school, programming, emergent curriculum, specific disabilities and more.

The library is a valuable source of information for parents, professionals, students and anyone interested in the early childhood field. The collection includes books, journals, cassette tapes, videos, DVDs, CDs, brochures, information sheets, posters and teaching aids.

Membership allows you to borrow resources from the library in Hazelbrook or via our Toy Library van by prior arrangement.

Click here to download the Membership Form

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Nepean Area Transition to School Project (NATTS)

The Nepean Area Transition to School (NATTS) project facilitates a positive start to school for children living in the Blue Mountains, Penrith, Hawkesbury and Lithgow local government areas and new sites in Western Sydney. The project assists children and their families to have a positive start to school by offering supported playgroups which are facilitated by an early childhood teacher and run in a primary school during terms 3 and 4.

Children and their families have the opportunity to experience the school environment gradually before starting Kindergarten. Children are able to explore the school buildings, meet the classroom teachers, listen to stories in the library, play in the school playground and purchase food from the canteen while attending the playgroup. Relationships between families, children, prior to school service staff and school staff are nurtured within the supportive environment of the playgroup.

Children starting school the following year attend the supported playgroup with a parent and younger siblings are also welcome, with quality early childhood experiences provided for children from birth to five years. Children not accessing other prior to school services have priority of attendance.

Transition to School - Western Sydney

In collaboration with the Department of Education and Communities and Families NSW, Connect is now developing and implementing new transition to school strategies in 5 local government areas in Western Sydney. This project is operating in conjunction with NATTS.

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Brighter Futures

Connect's Role: Connect Child and Family Services is the lead agency in the Blue Mountains for the Brighter Futures Program. We work in collaboration with local government and non government agencies to ensure Blue Mountains families have access to the program. Connect employs an Intake Worker for all Community Referrals, the Early Childhood Advocate and Specialist Child Care Support Worker for the program are also based at Connect.

About Brighter Futures: The Brighter Futures program provides you with support and services that will help you give your children a good start in life. This can stop family problems from getting worse.

The Brighter Futures program is for families who have children aged eight years or younger, or who are expecting a baby. You may be able to join the program if you have little support from family and friends and find parenting tough. Families facing drug and alcohol problems, mental health issues, parents with significant learning difficulties, child behaviour management problems, domestic violence or need help with parenting skills may also be able to be in the program.

Click here to view the Brighter Futures brochure.

Further Information: If you need any further information about Brighter Futures or would like to make a referral, please contact Jennifer Stockley or Kathie O'Connor at Connect on 4758 9966

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Supported Playgroups

Connect runs playgroups facilitated by early childhood staff weekly in a number of locations across the Blue Mountains. These groups include 'Play and Chat', 'Craft in the Park' and Dad's playgroups. All playgroups are led by trained staff and provide high quality early childhood learning activities and parenting information and support.

Click here to view the Activities Schedule.

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Community Hubs

Connect auspices Community Hubs based in local Public Schools. These hubs aim to improve children's developmental outcomes by increasing community connectedness and strengthening the service system that supports the well being of families with young children. Hub development in the Blue Mountains is informed by the Stronger Families Alliance 5 year strategic plan.

  • Katoomba Public School
  • North Katoomba Public School
  • Penrith Public School

Click here to view the Community Services News Article: North Katoomba Community Hub is a model for success

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YAWN - You Ask, We Nurture

We are looking for volunteers to partner with tired families with babies and young children, to enable them to feel supported.

We are looking for caring, respectful people with good listening and communication skills and parenting experience.

Volunteers will be people who enjoy contact with families and understand the normal sleeplessness of life with a young baby. They are there to be useful, however, their role is not to act as counsellors or to give medical advice.

Volunteering will involve 2 hours a week in the home with the family. Volunteers will need to pass an interview, undergo a training program and have a Working with Children Check. They will be supported in their role by the YAWN coordinators

We are here because we believe:

  • Babies cry to communicate.
  • Babies do not always sleep in the way that we expect.
  • As parents we want to respond in a way that ensures the wellbeing of our children.
  • Current research shows that nurturing children in their early years is important for their future emotional and physical development.
  • We recognise that this is not an easy job, and parents need support.

These are some of the ways in which a volunteer may help:

  • Hold the baby while parents do something in the home they haven't had time to do.
  • Play with siblings while parents spend time with the baby, or
  • Hold the baby while parents spend time with older children.
  • Make a cup of tea and listen.

If you are interested in volunteering or in receiving this service, ring Jeanette or Christy at Connect - 4758 9966.

Click here to view the YAWN Brochure.

Click here to view a letter of support for YAWN.

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National Community Hubs Program

Community Hubs is a national program that links families and their preschool children to services and support, learning opportunities and the wider community. Community Hubs makes it easier for families to access the assistance they need by bringing local education, health, community and settlement information and services into a familiar and friendly place.

In Hubs, their children can also enjoy activities tailored to advance their learning, development and wellbeing. Being a part of a Hub gives families a sense of belonging and creates friendships and support networks. Mothers, fathers and carers also connect at their local Hub with volunteer, education and training pathways that can lead to employment.

Builds on an existing and tested model in the City of Hume (Victoria) where nine Early Years Hubs in primary schools provided language, literacy and learning opportunities for culturally and linguistically diverse families and other services that promote child and family outcomes.

Aims to expand to 100 locations across Australia focusing on areas where there are many families from low socioeconomic, migrant or refugee backgrounds.

What does the Community Hubs Program look like in NSW?

Community Hubs is funded by the Australian Government in partnership with the Scanlon Foundation, the Migration Council Australia and Refuge of Hope.

Connect Child and Family Services is the support and auspice agency for the Community Hubs Program in NSW and is coordinating the roll out of 15 hubs in Western Sydney.

The schools and community centres hosting the hub programs are listed below:

Banksia Road Public School, Bert Oldfield Public School Hub, Blacktown North Public School, Chester Hill Public School, Colyton Public School Hub, Georges Hall Public School, Mount Druitt Public School, Rosehill Public School, Rydalmere Public School, St Brendan’s Catholic Primary, Westmead Public School Hub, Yagoona Public School, All Saints of Africa Community #, Granville Multicultural Community # and Information and Cultural Exchange #

(# denotes community centres)

What do Community Hub Leaders do?

Consult with the hub community, create a welcoming environment for children and parents, link parents and carers to services, connect education, health and community service providers, coordinate the provision of activities at the Hub and establish a local partnership group to plan and offer activities tailored to the needs of local children and their families

Aims of the Community Hubs Program (NSW):

Improve access and engagement with existing services for migrant families, increase learning outcomes for children, bolster social cohesion and reach out to migrant communities, improve language, literacy and learning outcomes for migrants and provide early learning activities for their children and improve the pathway to employment for migrants

Who is the Community Hubs Program targeting?

All families, mothers, fathers and carers in their area, low socioeconomic families, refugee and migrant children and families, families who might face extra challenges linking with services, support and learning opportunities or the wider community

What happens at Community Hubs?

Community Hubs brings local information and services spanning education, health, community and settlement into a familiar and friendly place. The venue often is a primary school or other community space that is already part of everyday life for families and their children.

Activities can include:

Mother and child English-language programs, bilingual story time, where stories are shared in each language, playgroups, parenting and family support programs, community kitchen and garden, volunteering, linkages to settlement services and specialist services, e.g. GPs, child and family health nurses, speech pathologists and occupational therapists,training and education courses and Certificate III courses, health and wellbeing workshops and special interest activities, get-togethers and other fun social events

Who do I contact?

For more information please contact Renate Gebhart-Jones (NSW Manager, National Community Hubs Program) on her mobile 0408 637 306 or via email at

renate.gj@connect.asn.au

Or visit the National Community Hubs Program website at

www.communityhubs.org.au

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Programs and Services