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Early Years (ages 0 – 5 years)


‘Early Years’ is used to describe the first five years of a child’s life as they begin to learn and develop. When a child has SEND this time can be more challenging and we understand that this can be a worrying time for parents as you try and access the support your child needs. 

What different levels of support are there?

There are different levels of support for children and their families during their early years, which vary depending on your child’s needs.

There is:

  • Universal provision, which is for all children, regardless of whether they have additional needs.
  • Targeted provision which is for children who have needs that are additional to and different from other children of the same age.
  • Specialist support which is for children with long-term, complex needs.

How do I get my child’s needs identified and assessed?

Although it isn’t possible to screen your new-born baby for every illness or disease, in the UK, there are certain tests and examinations that can be offered to look for some medical conditions.

There are routine tests which are offered to all pregnant women, but you should also talk to your GP about your family history in case they suggest some additional screenings or tests. If you have symptoms or problems which suggest pregnancy complications, various other examinations and tests may also be advised.

  • Pregnancy screening aims to detect potential problems early so that you can get treatment or early diagnosis. Medical professionals will discuss pregnancy screening with you.
  • The newborn baby check is a physical examination of a child as soon as they are born. This is done by a doctor.
  • Newborn babies will also have their hearing checked – this could be done when the baby is born or very shortly afterwards.
  • Midwives work with a family before birth and through the early post-natal period, focusing on individual needs. Midwives will do a ‘bloodspot’ test, where they prick the baby’s heel to take a sample of blood. This is usually around 5 days after birth.
  • Your GP will be notified of the birth of your child. You need to make an appointment to visit the GP within 6-8 weeks of the birth. At this appointment, the GP will do a post-natal check which will focus on the individual needs of the mother and baby.

Health Visitors

Health visitors can support you and your child throughout their early years until they turn 5 years old.

They are qualified nurses or midwives with specialist public health training. They provide a child-focused service, are trained in child development and carry out screening and developmental reviews. They can also suggest services which may be able to help if you have any concerns about your child.

Children and Family Health Devon

Children and Family Health Devon provides Specialist Children’s Assessment Centres for children aged 0 – 5 years with significant developmental difficulties. The centres offer assessments in the most appropriate venue for you and your child.

Devon’s hospitals

Hospitals provide community paediatric services. Paediatrics is the branch of medicine which focuses on the development of children and the diagnosis and treatment of childhood illness. You can use NHS Choices to find a service near you.

South Devon children will be assessed at Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust’s John Parkes Unit Child Development Centre.

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