Good Beginnings – Essex Early Years Autism Programme

Good Beginnings is the multi-agency Essex programme to support preschool children who have social communication difficulties or autistic spectrum disorder, their families and practitioners who work with them. Good Beginnings enables Essex parents and practitioners to receive advice and support from a range of specialist professionals working in partnership during the Early Years.

Good Beginnings is underpinned by five principles:

1. An understanding of the nature of autism is essential for sound educational practice.

2. Professionals need to work with parents as partners to maximise benefits for children with autism.

3. Each child will have a detailed individual assessment of his/her needs and the needs of his/her family.

4. Planned teaching needs to start as soon as possible.

5. Children can benefit from inclusive education.

Home-based programme

Preschool Specialist Teachers lead the Good Beginnings home-based programme of support, which may also include the involvement of a Family Support keyworker. Advice and support may be provided through a series of home visits, parent workshops or community activities.

The Good Beginnings programme of parent workshops enables parents to:

  • understand their child’s social communication difficulties
  • learn strategies to develop their child’s communication and social interaction
  • understand and manage their child’s behaviour effectively
  • meet other parents whose children have similar difficulties

The Good Beginnings guide is available for all families of preschool children with autism or social communication difficulties. Specialist staff, or early years practitioners in preschool settings, will use this resource with parents to put in place effective support.

Supporting nursery education providers

Preschool Specialist Teachers advise and support preschool education providers directly on planning an appropriate programme for individual children with autism or social communication difficulties to enable them to access their entitlement to nursery education.

Area SENCOs work alongside specialist staff to support preschool practitioners in developing their practice according to the Good Beginnings approach. Good Beginnings has been informed by research, developed with Essex families by Essex professionals and shaped by national initiatives. The team provides a range of professional development opportunities leading towards the Good Beginnings early years autism-friendly setting award, based on the Autism Education Trust national standards and competency frameworks (2014) and the Inclusion Development Programme (2009).

Transition to school

Children on the Good Beginnings programme are supported in their transition to school. On admission to mainstream primary school, education staff may seek advice and support if required from the the school-based Specialist Teacher team through the Good Futures model of support.

Who the service provides for

Good Beginnings is a service provided by the Specialist Teaching and Preschool Service for pre-school children with autism or social communication difficulties, their families and practitioners who work with them. The service is available for those children prior to their admission to school. A range of service activities provides flexible provision to meet the full range of needs.

Hours of operation

This is an all-year round service, offered with flexible hours.

How the service is accessed

Preschool children with autism or social communication are notified to the local authority by paediatric consultants or designated medical officers (Section 23 notification), typically following a multi-disciplinary assessment. The local authority refers these children to the Specialist Teaching and Preschool Service for Good Beginnings support.

Operational locations

  • Essex


County Hall