25 March 2024

Play supports all areas of children’s development – physical, social, emotional, cognitive, literacy and numeracy.

Play has long been described as ‘children’s work’ and most children play instinctively. 

Early childhood education and care services use play-based programs which are developmentally-appropriate activities which make learning fun through play.

This approach is a key first step in supporting children to be ready for formal classroom learning at school.

Parents can use play-based learning to support children by:

  • talking with their child throughout the day
  • singing songs
  • telling and reading stories
  • enrolling them in quality early childhood education and care services

The Australian Early Development Census measures children’s development across a range of domains upon their entry into Kindergarten.

The most recent data in 2021 showed high rates of children in South Western Sydney were vulnerable in more than one domain of development when starting Kindergarten.

Play is powerful in supporting these children in having the best possible start to school.

Useful links:

Find a children’s service:

StartingBlocks.gov.au

Importance of play to children’s learning and development:

StartingBlocks.gov.au/resources

RaisingChildren.net.au/play-learning

Find out about the Australian Early Development Census:

AEDC.gov.au

This article was written by members of the ‘Stronger Seeds, Taller Trees’ project which includes professionals from a number of government and non-government organisations in South Western Sydney. The group aims to support GPs working with families to navigate and access timely services when they have a concern about a child’s development.

21 February 2024

The COVID-19 lockdowns have resulted in a cohort of children whose development is delayed.

Young children have had limited access to social interactions and early learning environments during the critical period of their brain development, which has both created and compounded existing developmental delays.

Due to this, the need for early intervention is the highest it’s ever been.

The importance of early intervention

Early intervention is linked with positive outcomes for children.

It can positively impact all aspects of development, including social, physical, communication, cognitive and psychological development.

Referrals: where and how

Early referral to intervention services is crucial in maximising outcomes.

It is more important than ever to refer early as the COVID-19 lockdowns have increased waiting times in both public and private services.

Please consider referring to both public and private services (using Medicare rebate options) so families are offered supports in the timeliest manner.

Download where and how to refer

This article was written by members of the ‘Stronger Seeds, Taller Trees’ project which includes professionals from a number of government and non-government organisations in South Western Sydney. The group aims to support GPs working with families to navigate and access timely services when they have a concern about a child’s development.

21 September 2023

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience some of the highest rates of Otitis Media and associated hearing loss in the world.

Otitis Media is commonly known as ‘glue ear’ in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Left untreated, these conditions are directly linked to serious and long-term deficits. These include poor medical health, delayed communication and social skill development, challenging behaviour and learning difficulties.

With the COVID-19 lockdowns behind us, now is the time to complete crucial checks for children including:

  • regular ear checks
  • hearing assessments
  • onward referrals to ENTs / audiologists
Information for families

 

This article was written by members of the ‘Stronger Seeds, Taller Trees’ project which includes professionals from a number of government and non-government organisations in South Western Sydney. The group aims to support GPs working with families to navigate and access timely services when they have a concern about a child’s development.

 

17 August 2023

Fussy eating can lead to stressful and prolonged mealtimes, delayed oro-motor skills, and poor health outcomes including nutrient deficiencies (eg iron), slow growth and constipation.

Early intervention is required when fussy eating is caused by sensory sensitivities with food textures, or when it leads to highly restricted diets (less than 15 to 20 different foods) or challenging behaviours at mealtimes.

Children may require referral to speech pathology and/or occupational therapy.

When and how to refer

Mealtime strategies

  • Set up routines – Serve food at the same time and in the same place each day.
  • Create an engaging mealtime environment – Remove distractions (eg screens, toys) and share meals together as a family to model positive mealtime behaviours like trying new foods.
  • Encourage food exploration and play – Participate together in food preparation and play games with food like sorting by colour or texture, or building houses.
Start Them Right: A parent’s guide to eating for under 5s

This article was written by members of the ‘Stronger Seeds, Taller Trees’ project which includes professionals from a number of government and non-government organisations in South Western Sydney. The group aims to support GPs working with families to navigate and access timely services when they have a concern about a child’s development.

20 July 2023

Some children have difficulty processing and responding to information from their senses.

This includes sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, proprioception (body awareness) and vestibular (movement) input.

Signs of sensitivities:

  • Seeking sensations (touching, smelling or licking textures, closely watching moving objects, difficulty sitting still)
  • Over-reacting to sensations (becoming upset when touched, easily distracted by noise/light, picky with food textures and smells)
  • Under-responding to sensations (appearing to ‘tune out’, low response to sound/touch, poor pain perception)

Download:

Sensory seeking versus sensory sensitive

When to refer:

Refer to an occupational therapist when a child’s sensory sensitivities interfere with everyday routines or engagement in learning. Early referral is key in improving functional, social and academic outcomes.

Download:

Early intervention – where and how to refer

Further information about sensory sensitivities

This article was written by members of the ‘Stronger Seeds, Taller Trees’ project which includes professionals from a number of government and non-government organisations in South Western Sydney. The group aims to support GPs working with families to navigate and access timely services when they have a concern about a child’s development.

26 June 2023

Transition to school has an impact on a child’s educational trajectory.

A successful transition to school requires social, emotional, communication, and motor skills.

COVID-19 has impacted opportunities for children to develop their ‘ready for school’ skills, as many children could not attend early learning or playgroup.

GPs can help by supporting families to:

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Additional resources:

Children with disability have the right to go to school alongside their peers: Reimagine Australia Ready, Set, School! resource

Starting School (NSW DoE)

PlaygroupsNSW

Find your local school

Transition to School Resource

Crunch and Sip

Conversations for Collaboration

09 June 2023

More imperative than ever, early mental health assessments and support for children and young people should be provided to prevent unnecessary long-term impacts.

Many families visit their GP frequently, and these consultations present the ideal opportunity for early intervention.

As a result of COVID-19, many GPs have become pressed for time, however, GP’s skills and knowledge are crucial in supporting children’s mental health, especially infants and toddlers.

Australia’s Emerging Minds provides an evidence-informed guide created specifically for GPs.

This article includes links to brief videoclips, podcasts and e-learning courses on conducting child mental health assessments. 

Early intervention and referral by GPs can prevent progression of a mental health condition, critically contributing to children’s future wellbeing.

Southwest Sydney Paediatric Clinics

Referral

Infant Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (ICAMHS)

  • Liverpool/Fairfield:

Phone: 9827 8011/8717 1700

Referral

  • Bankstown:

Phone: 9780 2777

Referral

  • Macarthur/Campbelltown

Phone: 4621 5000

Referral

SWSPHN STAR4Kids Providers (3 to 12 years)

  • Camden, Wollondilly and Wingecarribee: AT Full Potential Psychology

Phone: 4655 1694

  • Liverpool: Mission Australia

Phone: 9732 6500

  • Bankstown/Fairfield: ProActive Psychology

Phone: 9796 3925/9727 7752

  • Campbelltown: Sparrow Centre for Children

Phone: 0417 469 800

Referral

Family Mental Health Support Services

  • Liverpool: Mission Australia – Happy Healthy Minds

Phone: 9732 6500

  • Fairfield: Woodville Alliance

Phone: 9724 3807

  • Bankstown: Break Thru People Solutions

Phone: 8700 1400

  • Campbelltown: The Benevolent Society

Phone: 4633 3777

  • STARTTS

Referral

This article was written by members of the ‘Stronger Seeds, Taller Trees’ project which includes professionals from a number of government and non-government organisations in South Western Sydney. The group aims to support GPs working with families to navigate and access timely services when they have a concern about a child’s development.

 

22 May 2023

Gross motor skills are foundational developmental skills required for play, self-care, and academic tasks. The COVID-19 restrictions limited children’s access to community settings such as parks and playgroups to practise gross motor skills.

When to refer

Children may present with the following gross motor difficulties:

  • Poor balance and posture
  • Poor strength
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Clumsiness

Refer to a physiotherapist when a child is not achieving age-appropriate motor milestones or has difficulty with physical activities. Early referral is key in maximising outcomes.
Where and how to refer

What to recommend

Increased opportunities to build gross motor skills.

Encourage parents to:

  • Avoid baby walkers
  • Reduce screen time
  • Prioritise floor tummy time for infants
  • Promote outdoor play for all ages
  • Attend playgroup

Resources by age

This article was written by members of the ‘Stronger Seeds, Taller Trees’ project which includes professionals from a number of government and non-government organisations in South Western Sydney. The group aims to support GPs working with families to navigate and access timely services when they have a concern about a child’s development.

20 April 2023

The COVID lockdowns limited children’s exposure to structured environments such as childcare where they have typically developed their social skills and emotional resilience. 

This has resulted in many children presenting with challenging behaviours.

Examples of challenging behaviour include:

  • Defiance/ refusing age appropriate requests
  • Overly fussy such as difficultly settling
  • Hurting self/ others
  • Excessively angry when refused their wishes
  • Ongoing or frequent emotional outbursts

When to refer?

Challenging behaviour is part of typical development. However, families need support if their child’s behaviour is impacting on family functioning, the child’s engagement in daily tasks and learning environments, or if there are safety concerns.

Some behaviours may be due to an undiagnosed developmental delay (eg social, emotional, communication), disability or trauma.

Where to refer?

  • Psychologist or family therapist
  • Parent Child Interaction Therapist (PCIT)
  • Parenting education program such as Circle of Security or Tuning in to Kids

Find more information

This article was written by members of the ‘Stronger Seeds, Taller Trees’ project which includes professionals from a number of government and non-government organisations in South Western Sydney. The group aims to support GPs working with families to navigate and access timely services when they have a concern about a child’s development.

07 March 2023

Multilingualism has been linked with numerous benefits for children and families.

Children may learn multiple languages simultaneously and may show a preference for one language.

Receptive language skills are key in determining if speech pathology intervention is required for multilingual children.

The limited amount of exposure to languages because of the COVID-19 lockdowns may have directly impacted language acquisition, and the trajectory of language development for multilingual children could differ from monolingual children. 

Early referral to speech pathology is critical if a child is having difficulty with understanding and following verbal information in their primary language.

Where and how to refer

Resources for Multilingual Homes

Webinar: The Benefits of Multilingualism

Interview: Teaching multiple languages to under fives

Expert in the field of multilingualism