Early Intervention

An early intervention programme for high risk infants typically begins within the first year of life. All early development (cognitive, motor, language and communication, and growth) is influenced by social and emotional development through caregiving relationships. Interventions during this period have a high potential to impact positively on neurodevelopmental outcomes.

“The goal of early intervention is to minimise cognitive, motor and emotional impairments in young children disadvantaged by biological or environmental risk factors. The early years are critically important for cognitive and motor development. The timing of therapeutic approaches that support developmental acquisition during this period reflects the most dynamic period of neuroplasticity with the highest potential for ameliorating the negative sequelae associated with high-risk infants” (Morgan et al 2016; Hadders-Algra et al 2017).

A primary goal of early intervention is to advance cognition and the readiness to learn. It aims “to promote child health and well-being, enhance emerging competencies, minimise developmental delays, remediate existing or emerging disabilities, prevent functional deterioration and promote adaptive parenting and overall family function” (Shonkoff, cited in Spittle & Treyvaud 2016).

Extensive research also highlights the critical importance of mutually responsive interactions between carers and young children starting in infancy. Studies indicate that greater dyadic tuning and increased attunement between a parent and their infant, and more responsive, positive, warm and sensitive parenting, is associated with better developmental outcomes at preschool and school age. Mutually responsive interactions between carers and young children starting in infancy seem critical for optimal development.


Research into early intervention suggests that current approaches have been too narrow in their approach to addressing the wide variety of developmental challenges with which high risk infants may present. EiSMART supports a broader skill set, shared across disciplines, supporting the development of the child, as well as strategies for actively involving and learning from families. It is a multidisciplinary and parent-led initiative to address these gaps (Hutchon B. et al DMCN 2019). This unique co-production has resulted in a collaborative, transdisciplinary, evidence-based, clinical reasoning framework, and services that focus on supporting the holistic needs of the infant and family.

EiSMART interventions are characterised by a focus on exploration, active trial and error, variability of practice, high frequency of practice, and caregiver education and active involvement. The goal is not only to advance targeted skills in the moment, but to more broadly advance future abilities to meet the early intervention goal of maximising a child’s learning and active participation potential.

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