The Access and Inclusion Model – AIM

The goal of AIM is to create a more inclusive environment in pre-schools, so all children, regardless of ability, can benefit from quality early learning and care. The model achieves this by providing universal supports to pre-school settings, and targeted supports, which focus on the needs of the individual child, without requiring a diagnosis of disability.

AIM commenced in 2016, since then, it has helped tens of thousands of children with a disability to access and meaningfully participate in the ECCE programme in pre-school settings nationwide. The model has been recognised internationally and has won awards for both excellence in practice, and inclusive policy.

AIM Supports

AIM supports are provided through the ECCE programme. The main supports are grouped into universal or targeted supports. Universal supports are designed to create a more inclusive culture in Early Learning and Care settings, through training courses and qualifications for staff. Where universal supports are not enough to meet the needs of an individual child, targeted supports are available to ensure the child can meaningfully participate in pre-school. In addition to targeted and universal supports, AIM also provides universal design guidelines for Early Learning and Care settings and AIM Inclusive Play resources.

Universal Supports (Levels 1 – 3 of the Access and Inclusion Model)

AIM universal supports benefit the whole pre-school environment through empowering pre-school providers to create a more inclusive culture in their settings. This is achieved through; Continuous Professional Development (CPD), an inclusion charter and guidelines for pre-schools and a Level 6  qualification in Inclusion (LINC).

  • The Leadership for Inclusion in Early Years Care (LINC) qualification is a level 6 special purpose award for early years educators. With this qualification, pre-school staff can become an Inclusion Coordinator (INCO) in a pre-school setting. The role of the Inclusion Co-ordinator is to provide leadership within the early years setting in relation to issues of diversity, equality and inclusion. Where a service provider is a fully qualified Inclusion Co-ordinator or employs a fully qualified Inclusion Co-ordinator in their pre-school setting, that provider will qualify for an increase of €2 per child per week in the rate of ECCE capitation payable.
  • The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Charter was developed by DCEDIY to support and empower those working in the sector to explore, understand and develop inclusive practices for the benefit of children, their families and wider society. EDI training helps providers; understand the EDI charter and guidelines, create their own inclusion charter for their setting, develop an anti-bias approach in early years and more.
  • Continuing Professional Development – AIM also supports settings by providing three Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses in the areas of disability and inclusion which include:
    • Hanen – Hanen Teacher Talk is a three day training course for providers, to help them enable young children to develop language and literacy skills.
    • Lámh – Lámh is a manual sign language system used by children and adults with intellectual disability and communication needs.
    • SPEL – SPEL stands for Sensory Processing E-Learning programme and helps providers support children with sensory processing difficulties.

Targeted Supports (Levels 4 – 7 of the Access and Inclusion Model)

AIM targeted supports cater to a wide range of abilities and are focused on the needs of the child and do not need a diagnosis of disability.

These might take the form of specialist advice and support, specialist equipment or appliances, minor building alterations, therapeutic intervention or, in a small number of cases, extra assistance in the pre-school room.

While AIM does not fund Special Needs Assistants (SNAs), in some cases funding may be provided either to reduce the child-to-adult ratio in the pre-school room or to fund an extra staff member as a shared resource with other children in the ECCE setting.

  • AIM level 4 is delivered by the Better Start Early Years Specialist Service (EYSS). Early Years Specialists work collaboratively with parents, pre-school providers, and with other professionals to develop inclusive learning environments in pre-schools. The EYSS also provides coaching and mentoring to the pre-school staff on supporting children in the ECCE programme.
  • Under level 5, AIM can provide specialised equipment, appliances or capital grants towards minor building alterations to ensure a child’s meaningful participation in pre-school. This could include a hoist, hearing aid or wheelchair ramp to name a few examples.
  • AIM provides a range of services in collaboration with the HSE under therapeutic supports. These services can be either universal or targeted. Universal services are the provision of leaflets or other supporting information. Targeted services are individualised and could include; behaviour support plans, classes, equipment, professional advice or pre-school visits. Supports may be provided through a Children’s Disability Network Team (CDNT), HSE Disability Service, HSE funded Voluntary Organisation or HSE Primary Care Services.
  • AIM level 7 support provides additional funding to pre-schools who have a child requiring extra support. Providers can use this funding either to reduce the child-to-adult ratio in the pre-school room or to fund an extra staff member as a shared resource with other children in the ECCE setting. This is all centred on supporting the pre-school leader to ensure your child’s optimal participation. A simple reduction in the staff to child ratio can have hugely positive outcomes for children with disabilities as well as for the entire pre-school room.

How to Apply

Universal Supports

For more information and to apply for The Leadership for Inclusion in Early Years Care (LINC) level 6 programme visit Pre-schools employing an Inclusion Coordinator are eligible for an increase of €2 per child per week in ECCE capitation. Eligible providers who employ a qualified Inclusion Coordinator can apply for increased capitation by completing the INCO application form on the HIVE portal.

National training programmes in relation to the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Guidelines, as well as in relation to disability and inclusion more generally, will be advertised on the websites of all City and County Childcare Committees. Pre-school providers and practitioners can apply for places on these training programmes through their local City or County Childcare Committee (

Training activities can also be found on a “resources for practitioners” site on the government’s First 5 website click the here for more information:

Targeted Supports

When starting the application process, it is important to carefully read the application form and ensure that both parent and provider consent to the application for AIM supports. You should consider the following: what supports are required? is the child eligible for AIM support?  is the child moving pre-school? or currently in receipt of AIM supports?

AIM Level 4 and 7
The application process for AIM Level 4 (expert early years educational advice and support) for the 2021/22 pre-school year will open on the Hive on Friday 14th May. Where required, Level 7 (additional assistance in the pre-school room) can be requested as part of the Level 4 application. Further guidance on the application process can be found here Guide for AIM Level 4 Application

The AIM Level 7 Post-Application Approvals and Reviews Guidelines have been uploaded to the Early Years Hive, and can be found here.

AIM Level 5
The application process for AIM Level 5 for the 2021/22 pre-school year will remain on PIP and will open for applications on Friday 14th May. Applicant guidelines can be found here AIM Level 5 Applicant Guidelines

When to Apply

Applications for targeted supports should be made in May so they are in place for the start of the pre-school year, however, they can be applied for year-round.

If a child in receipt of targeted supports moves to another pre-school, a new AIM application must be submitted by the new pre-school provider with the child’s parents.

If children in a service are eligible to avail of level 7 support for a second year, are returning to the same pre-school for a second year, and their circumstances have not changed, the setting must submit a second year extension request for all eligible children. This request can be submitted via the AIM tab on the Early Years Hive Platform.

AIM Policy and Rules

If you are interested in the policy, the up to date AIM rules, how AIM was founded or a review of the Programme click one of the documents AIM Policy Rules AIM Policy (PDF)

For more detailed information on AIM, please refer to these dedicated webpages For Parents ,  For Service Providers  and Frequently Asked Questions

AIM Inclusive Play

AIM Inclusive Play is the latest addition of AIM Supports which consists set of sensory and educational play resources to support inclusive practice within Early Learning and Care settings.

These resources included equipment, toys and materials to support the development of coordination and audio, visual and tactile skills among all children, and in particular, children with a disability.

AIM Inclusive Play reinforces an important message – that children’s play is a vital ingredient of childhood, essential for both growth and learning and an integral element of high quality pre-school provision.

Follow the link to access videos on how to use the resources: 

LINC – Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years programme

The  Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years programme, LINC, is a Level 6 Special Purpose Award (Higher Education), that is designed to support the inclusion of all children in the early years. The course is offered for free to people working within early years education and is fully funded by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. Once qualified, graduates will perform the role of Inclusion Coordinator within their early learning and care setting.

The development of the programme is part of a government response to local, national and international demands for high quality education and training leading towards graduate pathways in the combined field of early childhood care and education (ECCE). The programme seeks to address the need for continuing professional development (CPD) in relation to the inclusion of all children.

For more information visit  

For more information on inclusion Co-ordinator Increased ECCE Capitation Frequently Asked Questions please click here:

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