The Better Start Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) is a model of supports designed to ensure that children with disabilities can access the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme. Its goal is to empower service providers to deliver an inclusive pre-school experience, ensuring that every eligible child can fully participate in the ECCE programme and reap the benefits of quality early years care and education.
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AIM is a child centred model of supports, involving seven levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted, based on the needs of the child and the service provider. The model is designed to be responsive to the needs of each individual child in the context of their pre-school setting. It will offer tailored, practical supports based on need and will not require a formal diagnosis of disability.
Levels 1 – 3 of the model involve a suite of universal supports which are designed to promote and support an inclusive culture within pre-school settings by means of a variety of educational and capacity-building initiatives for providers and practitioners. International evidence suggests that these supports, when appropriately developed, are sufficient to support many children with disabilities.
However, where a service provider, in partnership with a parent, considers that some further additional support may be necessary to meet the needs of a particular child, they can apply for one or more targeted supports under levels 4 – 7 of the model. Additional targeted supports could take the form of expert early childhood care and educational advice and mentoring (level 4), specialised equipment, appliances and minor alterations (level 5), therapeutic supports (level 6) or additional capitation to fund extra assistance in the ECCE pre-school room (level 7). More information on these targeted supports is provided below.
Finally, the model applies to all mainstream pre-school settings which are funded through the ECCE programme. In addition to mainstream settings, pre-school services are also offered in special pre-schools and early intervention classes which cater exclusively for children with disabilities. While the underlying vision of the new model is to cater for as many children as possible in mainstream settings, it is recognised that a small number of children will continue to need specialised services.