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-Programme-Rules-for-2023_2024-1

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 www.lincprogramme.ie. 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 (myccc.ie)

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: https://first5.gov.ie/practitioners/continuing-professional-development

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?

Level 4: Expert Educational Advice and Support

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. This includes the creation of an Access and Inclusion Plan for children, which can help identify additional support and resources required to meet the needs of the child in the pre-school room. The EYSS can also act as a liaison with the National Council for Special Education to support transitions to primary school.

Level 4 Key Documents

Level 5: Equipment, Appliances and Minor Alterations

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. Training in the use of equipment will be given to providers free of charge. More information on what is available under level 5 can be found below.

Level 5 Key Documents

Level 6: Therapy Services

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.

When an application for AIM level 6 support is submitted, a Better Start Early Years Specialist is put in touch with the appropriate HSE contact, who will advise on the best support for the child.

If a child is already known to the HSE, the Early Years Specialist will arrange a phone call with the HSE contact identified on the Access and Inclusion Profile. They will then review healthcare strategies already in place for that child so that they can reinforce these strategies with the pre-school and ensure there is no conflict of information for the child or pre-school.

If a child is not known to the HSE, the Early Years Specialist will send the completed Access and Inclusion Profile to the agreed HSE contact. The HSE will be required to respond within 5 weeks of the request for support so the child can optimally participate in the ECCE programme.

Level 7: Additional Capitation

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. For more information read: Additional Assistance Information (PDF).

In recognition of research in this area, this support is designed to improve inclusion and ensure meaningful participation of all children in the room. It is different to the Special Needs assistant model which targets supports at each individual child.

A rate of €240 per week  additional Assistance can be paid to settings from September 2022. (This is based on 15 hours a week of additional assistance for a 38 week term, variations are calculated pro rata.)

AIM Policy and Rules

AIM Rules AIM-Programme-Rules-for-2023_2024-1

AIM Inclusive Play

AIM Inclusive Play was introduced in 2018 as a set of sensory and educational play resources to support inclusive practice within Early Learning and Care settings. The AIM Inclusive Play (AIP) pack was supplied to over 4,000 Early Learning and Care settings in 2018. 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.

The resources were carefully chosen with the help of Learning SPACE (Specialised Products Aiding Child Education) to support all children, regardless of ability, within the learning environment. Items from the AIP packs and other resources can be purchased from Learning SPACE at www.learningspaceuk.co.uk.

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. Read on for more information on AIM Inclusive play.

 

Image of young child for "LINC"LINC – Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years programme

The  Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years programme is designed to support the inclusion of all children in the early years. The course is offered for free to people working within Early Learning and Care 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.

LINC – Programme Structure

The LINC+ CPD Programme will open for new applications on Monday, January 22nd 2024 for graduates of the LINC Level 6 Programme.

The LINC+ CPD programme consists of 6 packages; the 1st of which Communities of Practice, will be available in March 2024.

Download LINC Brochure Here

The LINC+ CPD Programme is only open to graduates of the LINC Level 6 Programme and consists of six 10 hour continuing professional development packages. All six packages are now available. The first Package, Communities of Practice, must be completed by all participants. Following completion of Package 1, Communities of Practice, participants can then choose whichever package they wish to engage with.

The LINC+ CPD Programme is delivered 100% online. Flexible learning is at the heart of LINC+ CPD and participants can engage with the programme content at a time that suits their own schedule.

For those who wish to participate in the programme, they must register by Friday, February 16th 2024 at 4pm. They can do this by filling out the registration form on the LINC website when the applications open.

We will host three online information sessions for graduates interested in registering for the LINC+ CPD Programme. Further information about these sessions and registration details will be sent to you next week.

More information on the LINC+ CPD Programme can be found here.

Module Title (credits)SemesterModule Outline
Inclusion in Early Years Settings: Concepts and Strategies (12 ECTS)AutumnView Here
Child Development (6 ECTS)AutumnView Here
Promoting Collaborative Practice for Inclusion in Early Childhood Care and Education (12 ECTS)Autumn/SpringView Here
Curriculum for Inclusion (6 ECTS)SpringView Here
Leadership for Inclusion (12 ECTS)SpringView Here
Portfolio Module (12 ECTS)Autumn/SpringView Here

 

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