Overview of Early Intervention

Early Intervention

Early intervention is a term used to describe the services and supports that are available to babies and young children with developmental delays and disabilities. The support is also extended to their families and caregivers.  Such services may include areas in communication, physical and other types of intervention based on the child and family’s needs.


Early intervention will have a significant impact on the child’s ability to learn new skills and overcome challenges that will contribute to the success of the child’s life in the future.


In Singapore, early intervention services support children aged 0 to 6 years old, with wide variety of services provided by public and private institutions.


Who is early intervention for

Early intervention is targeted at children with developmental needs, which include developmental delays and disabilities. In Singapore, early intervention services support children aged 0 to 6 years old.


Developmental delays

Children with developmental delays reach certain developmental milestones later than expected. The delay can occur in one or several areas, including:

  1. Cognitive development
    • Learning, memory, attention, logical reasoning
  1. Vision and auditory development
    • Ability to perceive and process visual and auditory information
  1. Social and emotional development
    • Ability to build healthy social relationships, emotional understanding and self-regulation, appropriate emotional response
  1. Physical development
    • Gross motor skills, fine motor skills
  1. Communication development
    • Ability to understand language and communication by other people, and ability to express oneself clearly to others



Children with diagnosed disabilities also benefit from early intervention. Conditions of children with special needs include autism, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and intellectual disability among others.


How to know if the child needs early intervention

If the child is suspected to have developmental needs, professional screening services are available to evaluate if the child needs early intervention, as well as the level of early intervention that is suitable for the child.


Some avenues for screenings in Singapore are:

  1. Childhood Developmental Screening/ Well Baby Checks available at CHAS General Practitioner clinics
  2. Child Development Units at KK Women’s and Children Hospital and National University Hospital
  3. Child Guidance Clinic at Institute of Mental Health


Aim of early intervention

Early intervention aims to equip children with developmental needs with the skills necessary to lead a meaningful life well integrated within the community. It also aims to protect the children from secondary disabilities.


The Ministry of Social and Family Development Singapore envisions early intervention to help children to “maximise their potential at home, in the workplace and in the community”. It aims to support children to:

  1. Be independent
  2. Engage in gainful employment
  3. Participate in lifelong learning
  4. Enjoy quality of life
  5. Give back to family and society


Factors affecting the success of early intervention

According to the Ministry of Social and Family Development Singapore, seven key factors determine the success of early intervention.

  • Prompt and suitable type of early intervention

Early intervention is most beneficial when the child receives support as soon as possible after developmental needs are identified. Screenings by professionals assess the degree of developmental need, as well as the frequency and type of intervention that is suitable for the child.

  • Quality of guidance

Evidence-based teaching content and teaching methods are most effective in supporting children with developmental needs.

  • Proficiency among staff

Trained professionals are needed in early intervention services.

  • Funding

Adequate funding ensures that education programs have access to resources to support early intervention services.

  • Involvement of caregiver

An actively involved caregiver helps to reinforce learning at home so as to ensure that learned behaviours and knowledge are retained.

  • Planned transitions and integration

Planned transitions help to ensure a smooth progress from one stage to the next for the child, such as during transitions from kindergarten to primary school. Planned integration aims to ensure that the child will be accepted into the community.

  • Leadership

Strategic and accountable leadership guides education programs forward.


Overall achievements of Singapore in Supporting Early Intervention

According to Singapore Medical Journal 2021, it was recognized that dealing with early childhood developmental intervention ecosystem in Singapore requires new and innovative approaches that go far beyond hospital-based care; structured integration of medical services with education, and social and community support, including strong collaborative partnership with parents and caregivers.

It was recognized the a unique child development program has evolved in Singapore over the last 30 years. To minimize the impact of a child’s disability or prevailing risk factors, strengthen families and establish the foundations for subsequent development, the main objectives to support  young children has shifted to early identification and treatment of children with developmental and behavioral problems.


While supporting children with developmental needs will always be a “work in progress”, most in the industry would agree that significant progress has been made over the years, thanks to the hard work of stakeholders in the child care industry.