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Paving the Way

Early intervention for children with learning disabilities whose behaviours challenge

Key working or team around the child


The Wolverhampton Special Needs Early Years Service is a service for children under the age of 5 who have special needs. The service asks different groups of professionals to work together to create a plan that is built around the child. This will include assessment, diagnosis and early intervention.

How does it work?

The service will use information from different agencies to assess the needs of a child. If the child is under 5 years old, the service may refer them to a panel of professionals who will consider their needs and the needs of their family. The panel considers important issues in their assessment, such as the needs of siblings, parental capacity and other health needs.

A team is put together around the child to provide support. From this team, families choose a key worker to organise support that is right for them. All children with severe learning disabilities, sensory needs and/or difficulties communicating will have a team around them.

It is the best example in the country of key working for disabled children under 5.

Christine Lenehan, Director, Council for Disabled Children

What can the service include?

  • The Team looks at possible causes of challenging behaviour to develop a behaviour support plan. This plan looks at all the things that might affect behaviour and supports families and staff with dealing with the behaviour consistently.
  • Pre-school groups get help with learning and development and putting behaviour plans into action. Local schools for children with severe learning disabilities have programmes 5 days a week with after school and holiday clubs. Places are available to children with a Statement or Education Health and Care Plan from the age of 3.
  • The Integrated Learning Disability/CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health)teams provide behavioural support and access to therapies. Through different groups families can get support for issues such as sleep, toileting and eating.

We’ve fallen back in love with our child.

Parents commenting on the impact of parenting support

What are the tips to help develop and sustain a service of this type?

  • Involve families in planning from the beginning.
  • Develop a focus on key-working in job descriptions and training for all professionals.
  • Before children start school, they should receive person-centred behaviour support.

What are the challenges?

  • Health block contracts make it harder for different organisations to work together and give personalised support.
  • Funding can affect quality of service (often impacting short breaks and other essential elements).

We need to understand why the challenging behaviours are happening. That involves a proper assessment and through that we can determine how to support the family and manage behaviour.

Debra Baker, Early Years Special Needs Behavioural Team

For more information about this service click here.