The Agir tôt program is for children aged 0 to 5 and their families. It aims to identify indicators of developmental difficulties in children so that they can be directed to the right services quickly. The objective of the program is to support developing children’s full potential and facilitating their start in kindergarten.
The Agir tôt program’s services are free and offered on a voluntary basis. The program is being deployed gradually across Quebec until 2022.
Why intervene early
In the first years of their life, children develop quickly. They take full advantage of the positive experiences and interactions offered to them each day to fully develop and grow thanks to their brain’s ability to reorganize and change itself. Thus, early childhood is a period rich in learning, involving all areas of development.
It is therefore important to observe your child’s development daily. As a parent, you’re in a good position to detect possible indicators of difficulty. Early intervention with the appropriate measures will have a greater impact on your child’s development and trajectory.
Adults and professionals who are present in your child’s life also play an important and complementary role. They also monitor your child’s development on an ongoing basis to help quickly identify possible indicators of difficulty. For example, observations might be made during a medical follow-up or parent-child activity organized by a community organization. There are different tools for facilitating and improving the identification of children in difficulty.
ABCdaire 18 months + at the time of the 18-month vaccination appointment
One of the strategies developed for the program is developmental monitoring at the child’s 18-month vaccination appointment.
During the appointment, in addition to vaccinating your child, the attending staff at your local CLSC (local community services centre) can complete the ABCdaire 18 months +. To complete this developmental monitoring tool, you will be asked questions about your child’s overall development. Following the appointment, if difficulties have been identified, you will be directed, with your consent, to Agir tôt screening or another appropriate service.
Developmental monitoring during the 18-month vaccination appointment will be available everywhere in Quebec in 2022. For further information, contact your CLSC .
When indicators of difficulties or concerns are raised regarding your child’s development, you can use the screening service. It helps determine the child’s level of difficulty and whether services are needed to meet the child’s needs. This service is offered by the CLSCs. It is available anytime between birth and when your child starts school.
Screening consists of answering questions on a digital platform online and speaking with a caseworker. These questionnaires document many of your child’s areas of development, including:
- Language. There might be concerns about pronunciation or the child’s ability to understand instructions;
- Motor skills, such as walking, climbing, jumping, drawing and picking up small objects;
- The child’s cognitive and social/emotional development. Elements such as knowledge, attention, emotions management and socialization are then evaluated.
Even if you are concerned about only one of these elements, the screening will look at your child’s overall development. By constructing a complete picture of your child, it will be easier to fully understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and identify links between the different areas of development. For example, a child may have a bout of crying or a tantrum (social-emotional skills) when he can’t make himself understood to those around him because of a problem with language.
At the end of the process, the screening person will share your child’s developmental profile with you. You will be given various recommendations to help you resolve the problems or delays identified. With your permission, if required, you may also be directed to other services.
Most children experiencing difficulties need only a little help to support their development. However, the screening might identify difficulties that are sometimes indicators of neurodevelopmental disorders. For example, there might be a language disorder, an attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity or an autism spectrum disorder. In that case, a more detailed assessment might be recommended to you. If your child is confirmed to be at risk or gaps in development are identified, you will be directed to intervention services.
The Agir tôt program gives access to a variety of services as early as possible in your child’s life to meet your child’s needs, as well as those of your family.
Interventions aim to:
- Help you, as a parent, better assist your child through the stages of development and in your daily life;
- Offer stimulation and intervention to help your child develop and function well at home, at daycare and at school;
- Prepare your child for starting kindergarten and ensure a smooth transition to school;
- Assist you through the processes and services offered.
The intervention team consists of specialists in various disciplines who will listen to your concerns and your family’s reality. They also collaborate with the caseworkers who see your child on a daily basis, such as daycare providers, teaching staff, your child’s doctor or staff from the community organization your child attends for activities. Collaboration with the people involved with your child is a key approach of the program. Moreover, services in the community may be suggested depending on your child’s needs.
If you have concerns about your child’s development and would like more information about the program’s services, contact your CLSC . A caseworker will discuss your concerns with you and determine the appropriate service.
A doctor or caseworker who sees your child often might also ask permission to direct your child to the Agir tôt program.
Tools and resources
While all children are unique and develop at their own pace, some big developmental stages are essential.
Resources are available to guide you with these big stages in child development: