Access and Inclusion Model

The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) is a programme of supports designed to ensure that children with disabilities can access the Early Childhood Care and Education Programme in mainstream pre-school settings and can participate fully in the pre-school curriculum alongside their peers.

AIM is a child centred model of supports, involving seven levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted, based on the needs of the child and the pre-school setting. The model is designed to be responsive to the needs of each individual child in the context of their pre-school setting.  It will offer tailored, practical supports based on need and will not require a formal diagnosis of disability.

Levels 1 – 3 of the model involve a suite of universal supports which are designed to promote and support an inclusive culture within pre-school settings by means of a variety of educational and capacity-building initiatives for pre-school providers and practitioners. International evidence suggests that these supports, when appropriately developed, are sufficient to support many children with disabilities.

However, where a pre-school provider, in partnership with a parent, considers that some further additional support may be necessary to meet the needs of a particular child, they can apply for one or more targeted supports under levels 4 – 7 of the model. Additional targeted supports could take the form of expert early childhood care and education advice and mentoring (level 4), specialised equipment, appliances and minor alterations (level 5), therapeutic supports (level 6) and additional capitation to fund extra assistance in the ECCE pre-school room (level 7). More information on these targeted supports is provided below.

Finally, AIM applies to all mainstream pre-school settings which are funded through the ECCE Programme. In addition to mainstream settings, pre-school services are also offered in special pre-schools and early intervention classes which cater exclusively for children with disabilities.  While the underlying vision of AIM is to cater for as many children as possible in mainstream settings, it is recognised that a small number of children will continue to need specialised services.

Targeted Supports under AIM

A range of targeted supports are available under levels 4 – 7 of the Access and Inclusion Model.

Level 4: Expert Educational Advice and Support

Under level 4, pre-school providers can access a national service where specialists in early years care and education for children with disabilities can provide expert advice, mentoring and support. To avail of this support, pre-school providers, in partnership with parents, will be asked to complete an online Access and Inclusion Profile.  This will look at the strengths, abilities and needs of the child, as well as the strengths and needs of the pre-school setting.  The profile will allow the Early Years Specialist to identify what, if any, additional supports might be required to enable the child’s full participation in pre-school. A copy of the Access and Inclusion Profile can be accessed here.

The degree of support offered by Early Years Specialists will depend on the needs of the child and the pre-school provider. In some cases, this may involve developing an Individual Access and Inclusion Plan for the child within their pre-school setting, in conjunction with the parent and the pre-school provider.  It may also involve liaising with HSE health and social care professionals to obtain their input and expertise.  

Your pre-school provider will have contact details for the Early Years Specialist Service and will contact them.

Level 4 Key Documents

Level 5: Equipment, Appliances and Minor Alterations

Under level 5, a national scheme is available to provide specialised equipment, appliances or capital grants towards minor building alterations, where these are necessary to support access and to facilitate a child’s participation in pre-school. Applications for this scheme should be made by a pre-school provider, in partnership with a parent.  In all cases, a short report from a “designated professional” is required confirming that the specialised equipment or minor building alterations are necessary. Once an application for equipment is approved, this will be sourced by Pobal and delivered directly to the child’s pre-school setting.  Training in the use of the equipment will also be provided.  Where an application for minor building alterations is approved, a capital grant towards the cost of these alterations will be made available to the pre-school provider.

Information on the different categories of “designated professional” who can complete reports and on the lists of minor alterations and equipment which may be funded under the scheme can be found in the AIM policy document and in the Pobal application and guidance documents


Level 5 Key Documents

Level 6: Therapy Services

AIM provides a range of services in collaboration with the HSE under therapeutic supports. These services can be either universal or targeted. Universal services are the provision of leaflets or other supporting information. Targeted services are individualised and could include; behaviour support plans, classes, equipment, professional advice or pre-school visits. Supports may be provided through a Children’s Disability Network Team (CDNT), HSE Disability Service, HSE funded Voluntary Organisation or HSE Primary Care Services.

When an application for AIM level 6 support is submitted, a Better Start Early Years Specialist is put in touch with the appropriate HSE contact, who will advise on the best support for the child.

If a child is already known to the HSE, the Early Years Specialist will arrange a phone call with the HSE contact identified on the Access and Inclusion Profile. They will then review healthcare strategies already in place for that child so that they can reinforce these strategies with the pre-school and ensure there is no conflict of information for the child or pre-school.

If a child is not known to the HSE, the Early Years Specialist will send the completed Access and Inclusion Profile to the agreed HSE contact. The HSE will be required to respond within 5 weeks of the request for support so the child can optimally participate in the ECCE programme.

Level 7: Additional Capitation

AIM level 7 support provides additional funding to pre-schools who have a child requiring extra support. Providers can use this funding either to reduce the child-to-adult ratio in the pre-school room or to fund an extra staff member as a shared resource with other children in the ECCE setting. This is all centred on supporting the pre-school leader to ensure your child’s optimal participation. A simple reduction in the staff to child ratio can have hugely positive outcomes for children with disabilities as well as for the entire pre-school room. For more information read: Additional Assistance Information (PDF).

In recognition of research in this area, this support is designed to improve inclusion and ensure meaningful participation of all children in the room. It is different to the Special Needs assistant model which targets supports at each individual child.

A rate of €240 per week  additional Assistance can be paid to settings from September 2022. (This is based on 15 hours a week of additional assistance for a 38 week term, variations are calculated pro rata.)

AIM Policy

The AIM policy places the child at the centre and recognises the important role of the parent in all decision-making concerning access and participation. Further information can also be found in the Frequently Asked Questions and Resources sections of this website.

The full policy underpinning AIM can be accessed by clicking the button below.

Getting Started and Accessing Supports

You will be able to access AIM supports through your pre-school provider.

If you have not as yet identified a suitable pre-school for your child, information on childcare services may be viewed on Pobal Maps via this link.  You can search by facility name or address, or browse to your location to click on the service and access further information.  For a video tutorial on how to use this resource please click here.  If you require any further assistance with using the system, please email Alternatively your local City or County Childcare Committee will be able to assist you – a list of all CCCs can be found here.

When you have identified a pre-school for your child, your pre-school provider will, in consultation with you, consider what supports may be needed to ensure your child’s meaningful participation in the ECCE Programme.

Where it is considered that your child needs additional support, your pre-school provider can apply, in partnership with you, for targeted supports under AIM.

Universal Supports 

Targeted Supports 

Applications can only be made with your full consent. Click here for a copy of the AIM Informed Consent form. This form should be printed and signed by the parent and should then be uploaded and submitted with the completed application.  In providing consent for an application to be made, you are also providing consent for information on your application to be shared with relevant professionals involved in processing the application and providing supports under AIM (eg. Early Years Specialist, HSE occupational therapist, Pobal officials etc.).

Where an application for supports has been made, Pobal will process the application and will inform both the parent and the pre-school provider of the decision reached. Where a parent, in partnership with a pre-school provider, is unhappy with the decision reached by Pobal, they can seek a review.  More detail in relation to the process of decision making is available at

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