Guest Post – Louise Furlong (2018)
AIM (Access and inclusion model)
AIM is a child centered model in preschools in Ireland, which allows for services to promote inclusion and ensure all children, no matter their ability or disability have the chance to attend preschool.
It was introduced to allow children to gain access to services such as supports from professionals and materials like specially adapted tables and chairs, to allow them to meaningfully participate in their ECCE year.
A child with delays or additional needs can join any service but due to space, time or adult ratio they may not receive the best preschool experience available to them. AIM allows for preschools to customise the level of help needed in conjunction with a Better Starts Early Years Specialist.
You can find more about AIM here. Accessing this service does not require a formal diagnosis. The only criteria is your child must be attending a preschool on the ECCE scheme.
The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme is a childcare programme which provides children with their first formal experience of early learning in a quality service.
The programme is delivered to children of pre-school age (2 years 8 months to 5 years 6 months) before starting primary school.
Children are entitled to 2 free years based on their date of birth. If your child is 2 years and 8 months or older in the September that’s the year, they can start ECCE. In my Montessori we operate an ECCE service meaning we are open for 38 weeks of the year, or 183 days. We try to stay in line with the local school’s holidays and are inspected annually by Pobal, to ensure we are adhering to the schemes contract.
AIM is broken down into levels which can be seen in the diagram below.
Universal supports (levels 1-3) are directed at the preschool services, ensuring they receive training such as LINC and all practitioners direct their learning towards an inclusive environment.
When levels 1-6 are not enough to ensure your child can participate in ECCE, we look at getting granted a level 7 support which means we can receive funding to reduce the adult to child ratio or get extra support in the classroom.
When a child starts in preschool sometimes the practitioner might notice some areas that the child is having trouble in, such as social skills mixing with their friends or a speech problem which may have not been picked up on yet.
I personally find that allowing all children to access AIM, not just children with a diagnosis allows for early invention which can have such a positive effect receiving help at an earlier stage.
AIM can offer levels of supports such as working on a goal plan between the Early Years Specialist and practitioner in the service to make a personalised practical list that is something to work towards in an achievable manner (Level 5).
AIM services are accessed by filling out an access and inclusion profile with parents and pinpointing the areas your child is having difficulty.
If you know your child has some issues and may need additional support, it is always good to chat to your preschool before they start, you can discuss filling out an access and inclusion profile then as sometimes it can take up to 3 months for supports to come in place. The profile can only be uploaded once the child starts on the ECCE scheme and as you can imagine September is a very busy month as every child in early years in Ireland needing supports will all apply at the same time. For that reason, it is crucial to talk to your Early Years Educator/Practitioner well in advance of your child’s start date so we can have the best supports possible in place.
Personally, I’ve learned so much from AIM being introduced, I’ve completed training such as Hanen, Access and Inclusion training and am currently studying LINC (Leadership for Inclusion in Early Years) which will give me the responsibility of being Inclusion Co-ordinator when I graduate.
Last year services getting AIM supports were prioritised getting new sensory packs with amazing materials and activities for them that all the children enjoyed and still use every day.
When looking at a child with difficulties in preschool, my first thought is “How can I make this easier for them?” Having an inclusive frame of mind means not changing the child to fit our model but changing what we have so they can join us.
It’s not always possible but we try our best, so when children walk through the doors of Guardian Angels they can complete activities and games based on their ability no matter what it may be.
You can find out more about Louise and her inspiring Montessori over on her FACEBOOK page which you can find HERE.