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NCI hosts National ABC Programme

NCI ABC Programme in action: Yan He with her daughter Luxi Shi and ELI Home Visitor Sue

The Area Based Childhood Programme (ABC) operates at 12 sites around the country, in Dublin, Cork, Wicklow, Louth and Limerick, working in partnership with families, practitioners, communities, and national stakeholders to deliver better outcomes for children and families living in areas where poverty is most deeply entrenched. ABC envisions an Ireland where no child is impacted by poverty and all children are supported to reach their full potential.

Today sees National College of Ireland (NCI) host a learning event: Empowering Families, Thriving Communities: Reflections from the National Area Based Childhood Programme. This gathering will allow practitioners from all 12 sites across Ireland to share their work and experiences and network with each other, as well as with other key stakeholders and partners from the wider sector, including statutory, community and voluntary agencies. NCI is the lead agency for the Docklands and East Inner City ABC Programme

The perspective of parents will be presented by Marie Boyne, who first engaged with the ABC Programme as a parent, before joining the Early Learning Initiative at National College of Ireland (NCI) as a Home Visitor, where she undertook and completed a BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Education and Care. Marie is now an ABC Programme Coordinator at NCI.

Two papers will be presented, one on the foundational Infant Mental Health approach, and the other on work taken to support children’s oral language.

Infant Mental Health

Infant Mental Health is defined as 'young children's capacity (from birth to 5 years) to experience, regulate, and express emotions, form close and secure interpersonal relationships, and explore the environment and learn within the context of family and cultural expectations.'(Zero to Three, 2016).

There has been a shift in ABC collective thinking in relation to child mental health whereby there was more focus on future outcomes rather than the here and now.

A focus on IMH has progressively become a core practice for ABC Programmes. It continues to grow concurrently with the range of other evidence-based practices ABCs deliver to provide 'ecosystem' solutions to the challenges facing communities experiencing disadvantage.

The ABCs have developed an IMH Framework, including an IMH Organisational Culture to align and embed IMH throughout ABC interventions.  This Framework outlines a continuum of IMH work across service delivery, capacity building and systems change, delivered at a promotion, prevention and early intervention levels.

Children’s Oral Language

Oral language underpins communication with other people: it refers to the ability to talk and understand what others say effectively.

The Area Based Childhood Programme prioritises a focus on supporting children’s oral language as these essential skills impact on all aspects of a child's life, including their social, emotional, and educational development and are core to helping a child realise their full potential.

The ABC Programme provides a community-based social model of care, whereby speech and language therapists work within the community in partnership with babies, toddlers, children, parent(s)/caregiver(s), families, and diverse community and statutory services to support oral language development of all children with a core focus on prevention, promotion, and early intervention from birth. These services begin in the pre-birth period of development and continue across childhood to contribute to optimal oral language and communication development for young children.

The ABC programme will launch their Oral Language Paper, exploring the Practice and Policy issues, within the next few months and this will be hosted on the websites of the individual sites and on the National Tusla website.