A world-first program for babies with delays in their social interaction and communication skills has been launched in Western Australia.

The Telethon Kids Institute Inklings Program will run for three years and involves 700 families from across WA including regional centres. It will support babies aged 6-18 months who are developing differently, with 10 sessions delivered fortnightly within six months, in-clinic or via telehealth.

NDIS Minister Bill Shorten and WA Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson launched the program at a Telethon Kids Institute CliniKids event in Perth.  

Minister Shorten said the game changing pilot puts Australia at the head of the world in redefining early childhood supports. “What we learn from the program has the potential to change the way we help our littlest Australians who have delays that will allow us to explore new ways in how we go about supporting future generations.”

The Inklings Program builds on landmark research conducted by the Telethon Kids Institute, the University of Manchester, La Trobe University and CAHS, which found improvements in parent-child interactions and children’s language skills. It uses short videos of a caregiver interacting with their baby to help them better understand the different ways that their baby communicates. With guidance from a trained practitioner, caregivers will learn strategies to build on their own strengths as a responsive communication partner for their baby.   

Andrew Whitehouse, Professor of Autism Research at Telethon Kids said: “It’s a great feeling to see translation of this life-changing research making a difference to families who need support so that each child has their very best chance to reach their potential.”

Caregivers who live in WA can be referred by a health professional or enquire direct to Inklings to see if they are eligible to participate in Inklings WA. There are no out-of-pocket expenses for eligible families in the program.

For more information visit: www.inklings.org.au/wa

Photo: Telethon Kids Institute Professor Andrew Whitehouse, WA Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson, Telethon Kids Institute executive director Professor Jonathan Carapetis and NDIS Minister Bill Shorten.