Early Intervention

National Disability Insurance Scheme – early childhood intervention partners

If your child has a disability and is aged 0 to 6 you may be able to access the early childhood intervention (ECI) partners services under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).  You can call the NDIS on 1800 800 110.


Join your local PlayConnect community!

** Currently suspended and looking for a new facilitator ** 
If you are interested in attending or be the new facilitator, please email them with expression of interest.

PlayConnect is a free, safe and supported playgroup program for children aged 0-6 years with unique needs, developmental delays or behavioural concerns, and their families.

PlayConnect groups are run by an experienced facilitator. The program is free to attend, and for families at all stages of their journey! No diagnosis or NDIS plan is needed.

PlayConnect works to support social engagement through play for children from 0-5 years, create connection and learning through play and create lasting peer support networks for parents, caregivers, and siblings, helping you connect with other families sharing the experience.


There are also My Time Groups

MyTime is for parents and carers of children with a disability, developmental delay or chronic medical condition. It’s a place for you to unwind and talk about your experiences. It’s a world away from appointments and therapy.

It’s support for you. While you attend your group led by a trained facilitator, a play helper will engage your pre-school aged child. See if there is one running in your area, Visit Website




Community Child Health Services

The Child Development Service (CDS) operates to:

  • assist infants and children referred with special needs to maximise their developmental potential and functionalCDS.jpg abilities.
  • help children reach optimal health, quality of life and well-being.
  • support families/carers of children with special needs and provide carer education.

Who receives the service?

  • Young children with developmental delay or disability, from birth up to (but not including) prep school year, requiring multidisciplinary assessment and intervention.
  • Young children with developmental delay, from birth up to (but not including) prep school year, with more than one specific need within the following areas of development i.e.: gross motor; language and communication; fine motor; cognitive /adaptive; daily living; social; or behaviour.
  • Children whose development is considered at risk, e.g. : very premature and low birth weight or high risk babies

What services are offered?

  • Assessment of child’s development and special needs
  • Individual and group intervention.
  • Support, education, and practical assistance for families and carers.
  • Advice on and loan of therapy equipment.
  • Home, kindy and day care visits/programs.
    “Specialist” clinics.
  • Referral to and liaison with other agencies.

Outreach Services are offered to:

Rural Communities: e.g. Yarrabah, Innisfail, Mossman, Mareeba and Atherton.

Remote Communities: Weipa, Napranum, Aurukun, Lockhart River, Mapoon, Kowanyama, Pormpuraaw, Coen, Cooktown, Hopevale, Wujal Wujal, Bamaga, Thursday Island.

A Growth & Development Clinic is held on a monthly basis to follow-up at-risk infants and children who have spent time in the Cairns Special Care Nursery (SCN).

Who’s on the team?

Children, parents, family members and carers are an integral part of the team. Our professional team includes:

  • Team Leader
  • Physiotherapists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Speech Pathologists
  • Social Worker
  • Administrative Officer

Visiting Professionals include:

  • Paediatricians/registrar
  • Qld Paediatric Rehabilitation Services Team
  • SCN nurse
  • Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Team

Referrals to other professionals, e.g. dieticians, social workers, psychologists, can be arranged.

Liaison with Other Agencies: After written consent is obtained from the parents, relevant liaison takes place with other agencies to ensure a coordinated service approach, e.g. Disability Services, Education Qld, RFDS and Dept of Child Safety.

How can the service be accessed? Referral may be made to the Child Development Service by parents, carers, doctors, health professionals or community agencies. A CDS referral form is required and can be obtained by phoning the Child Development Service on phone (07) 4226 4323.
Note: Parents/carers must have given consent before a referral is made to CDS.

The completed form should be returned to:
Team Leader
Child Development Service
PO Box 1055
Cairns North QLD 4870

Or fax to (07) 4226 4364

What happens next?

  • The referral will be discussed with the team at the next weekly case conference
  • The parent/carer will be contacted either by phone or letter about the outcome of the referral. If the referral has been accepted, an information package including a Health Questionnaire Form will be forwarded to the parent/carer to be completed and returned.
  • The parent/carer will then be contacted to arrange an appointment for an initial assessment by one of the unit’s professional staff. (A waiting list for CDS services exist.)

What does it cost?
This service is provided free of cost to children and their families. It is funded by the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service.

Where to go:

Child Development Service
381 Sheridan Street
Cairns North Qld 4870
(Opposite Tobruk Swimming Pool)

Tel: (07) 4226 4323

Areas covered by the service:

  • Cairns and Hinterland
  • Cape York
  • Torres Strait Islands and Bamaga
  • Northern Peninsula Area North Service District

Caterpillar Clinic – Offering Intensive Early Intervention Programs (based on Applied Behaviour Analysis), focusing onCaterpillar Clinic.jpg language, social skills, self-care skills (e.g., toileting, eating, sleeping), and play skills.

Inspire Early Intervention – Providing personalised Early Intervention Therapy, Education and Well-being programs for children with autism or other disability, their families, carers and educators.



See the websites directory for more providers on early intervention


Early Childhood Development Program (ECDP)

Cairns Early Childhood Development Program (ECDP) provides an educational program and/or service to support referred children from birth until they start prep, who have or are suspected of having significant educational needs and may be diagnosed with an impairment in one the following areas

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Intellectual Impairment
  • Physical Impairment
  • Speech Language Impairment
  • Visual Impairment
  • Hearing Impairment

Cairns is the only location to have centre-based ECD program and this occurs at  Parramatta State School, Minnie Street, Cairns. 

The following have quite regular playgroups during school term – parents stay.

  • Innisfail has a playgroup on Thursday
  • Cairns has playgroup on Wednesday (predominantly under 3)
  • Mareeba has playgroup on Wednesday
  • Atherton has playgroup on Thursday
  • Rural and remote services are different depending on location and need of children

More information including download their brochure see their website.

Inclusion Support Program

Paid to approved child care services, including out of school hours care and holiday programs, so that they can provide extra care for children with special needs. Your childcare service will need to apply through their Inclusion Support Facilitator.  Visit Website

inclusion.jpg Teachers in kindergarten services and long day care services can access support to assist children with disability to participate in their programs. Children with disability, including children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, can receive additional supports to participate in a kindergarten program. Kindergarten services can apply under the Disability Support Funding Program, Department of Education, Training and Employment, to receive additional funding to support your child’s participation in their kindergarten program.

Additional support may include:

  • equipment and play resources
  • training and professional development for kindergarten teachers
  • extra teacher aide time to support
  • the child’s inclusion in the program.

Kindergarten programs in long day care services may be eligible for the Australian Government’s Inclusion and Professional Support Program. This provides professional development and other assistance to childcare services supporting children with additional needs.

Kindergarten teachers can modify the kindergarten program to support the inclusion of your child. The wider kindergarten community can also be provided with information about Autism Spectrum Disorder to encourage inclusion of your child.  Supports offered


Inclusion Support QLD is part of the Inclusion Support Program and is managed by KU Children’s Services, in partnership with Cairns and District Child Care Development Association.

Tel: 1800 811 039  email
They are responsible for managing and coordinating access to quality inclusion support that is relevant, appropriate and timely for all eligible childcare services in our region.

Eligible Services

We provide free tailored inclusion support to eligible early childhood education and care services including:

  • Centre-Based Day Care
  • Outside School Hours Care, and
  • Family Day Care services

Children with Additional Needs

While there is no national definition of ‘additional needs’, there are children who may need or require special considerations or adaptions to participate fully in ECEC services (although not all children with additional needs will require support).

The Inclusion Support Program supports educators to address access and participation barriers and to support the inclusion of children with additional needs, with their typically developing peers.

Additional needs may arise for children who:

  • have a disability or developmental delay
  • are presenting with challenging behaviours
  • have a serious medical or health condition, including mental health
  • are presenting with trauma-related behaviours.

Meeting the needs and requirements of:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  • children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • children from refugee or humanitarian backgrounds

Visit Website for lots more info