Online early intervention services for children with disabilities and developmental delays

18 December 2020
Portrait of a shy girl looking down and smiling
UNICEF/2019

SKOPJE, 18 December 2020. UNICEF and partners today promoted a new web platform Early Intervention for parents and caregivers of children with developmental delays and children with disabilities from 0 to 6 years to offer families an access to early intervention services and online psycho-social support.

”The Early Intervention Platform for Children with Disabilities is a new, innovative tool in our country that will help families of children with disabilities and the professionals who work with them to determine the best approach to provide support, according to the individual needs of the child. The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy will follow the experiences of its use with an aim to establish a multidisciplinary system for early identification and early intervention, to ensure that every child has equal opportunities for growth and development,” said Jagoda Shaphaska, Minister of Labour and Social Policy.

Developed with UNICEF support in cooperation with the Association of Special Educators and Rehabilitators the platform aims to help parents and caregivers understand key developmental milestones in early childhood; recognise early signs of developmental delay and stimulate child development through play and exercises.

It also offers easy access to individualized professional guidance and intervention. Including options for parents to submit online requests for experts from the Association of Special Educators and Rehabilitators to conduct an assessment of child individual needs and create an individual development plan. This option gives parents wherever they live, access to tailored and specialized support and guidance to stimulate their child's skills, abilities and competencies.

“We know that the best way to support children with developmental delays is through early identification and early childhood intervention. This approach dramatically improves children's chances to reach their full potential and functioning, have better quality of life and take up their right place in the society as adults. Therefore, it is essential to start with interventions as early as possible, but also to offer variety of services supporting children with developmental difficulties. The Platform provides an innovative way of reaching children at national scale, even in the areas where services are not physically available and complements the overall Ministry of Health efforts to ensure services for early intervention are available to all who need them,” said Venko Filipche, Minister of Health.

 “The early years are a period of great opportunity for child development but also a period of vulnerability. Recognising that children with disabilities are amongst the most vulnerable, particularly in the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital for families to have access to services that support early childhood development,” said Patrizia Di Giovanni, UNICEF Representative. “The first step to ensuring children with disabilities are included in society is creating the conditions for their optimal development in their early years.”

The online platform is an extended service of the Center for Early Intervention opened in Skopje earlier this year. Established with UNICEF support and funded by the UK Government, the new centre is part of an effort to expand community-based services for families of children with disabilities and development delays.  

“We are committed to improve policies and practices on social cohesion and diversity in North Macedonia. That is why we are happy to support tailored community-based services for children with disabilities as an entry point for their inclusion in the society.  The Center for Early Intervention is part of our broader effort to improve the lives of all children and to support reforms in the educational and social system,” said British Ambassador, Rachel Galloway.

The need for online early intervention services was recognised as a response to COVID-19 pandemic which disrupted some of the basic support services for children with disabilities, putting a burden on parents and caregivers. While it guarantees the continuity of service, the online platform also now reaches families in communities where services are not physically available and families where income barriers prevented them from using services in the past.  

The E-platform is available in Macedonian and Albanian language at http://www.ranaintervencija.mk .

 

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