A smart start for high-risk infants. The goal of early intervention is to minimise cognitive, motor and emotional impairments in young children disadvantaged by biological or environmental risk factors. 

What is early intervention?

Early intervention typically refers to a programme beginning within the first year of life for which the aim is to enhance infant development. 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).

The goal of early intervention is “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” (Shonkiff, 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.

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