Developmental Education

How can a Developmental Educator help?

Developmental Educators, or DE’s as they are often known, are one of the newest allied health professions in the disability field, but they are also one of the most diverse. As part of the four year degree, DE’s develop the skills to work with individuals and those around them to help them live as independently as possible and as an active member of their community. They do this through working closely with not only the individual, but also through gathering information from their support network.

This is done through a mixture of direct therapy sessions with the individual, information gathering and observations of the individual engaging in different tasks and interactions across their natural environments and skill development and training for the individuals support network. This means that sessions often take place in a number of different locations, including in one of our clinics, at the individual’s Individuals school/education setting, care facility, at their home and in the local community.

Some of the areas our team can assist with are:

Social Skills: The skills we use to communicate and interact with others, including use of appropriate language and non-verbal cues, and understanding the ‘rules’ like turn taking and active listening. These skills also include play skills, conflict resolution and risk awareness.

Behaviour Management Plans: These are created through observations of the individual engaging in everyday tasks and activities and identifying what the triggers for challenging behaviours are. Strategies are then developed and trialled to minimise the occurrence of the trigger and more appropriate responses if the trigger does occur. This includes developing self-regulation skills. Visit our Behaviour page for more information on Behaviour Management Plans.

Emotional Awareness and Identification: Self-regulation therapies support individuals to develop the skills required to monitor and control their behaviours, emotions and thoughts.

Daily Living and Functional Life Skills: The skills we utilise to physically care for ourselves, this includes activities like cooking and feeding ourselves, toileting and maintaining our personal hygiene. These are also the skills we utilise to live independently and access our community, like cleaning our homes, shopping for food, money handling and transport.

Much of this work includes working both with the individual, but also working with the individuals support network, teaching them strategies to implement across environments to ensure a consistent and collaborative approach is utilised.


Before beginning therapy or developing any programs or strategies, our Developmental Educators will complete the relevant assessments with the individual or those around them. These results provide us with a clearer picture of the individual’s strengths and where further work and development is needed and allow us to begin developing plans and strategies that best meet the individual’s unique needs. The primary assessments our DE’s use are:


Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scales

The Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scales is designed to measure an individual’s adaptive behaviour across five domain areas, these are: communication; daily living skills; socialisation; motor skills; and maladaptive behaviour. The Vineland questionnaire can be completed with the individual, teacher, support worker, or the individuals parent/guardian.


Sensory Profile

The Sensory Profile measures an individual’s sensory responses to every day events and situations. This provides insight into an individual’s sensory processing patterns, which in turn are used to identify if these patterns are contributing to or creating barriers in how the individual processes sensory information from their environment.


If you have a National Disability Insurance Scheme Plan, as part of the reporting requirements at each plan review, individual assessments need to be conducted before starting a new therapy and either when you finish the therapy or at the end of each plan. These assessments provide us with ‘pre and post-baseline data’, or in simple terms, it provides a snapshot before and after therapy. This helps us when reporting on what progress was made and to develop recommendations for your future plan.

Daily Living and Functional Life Skills

Daily Living and Functional Life skills refer to the day-to-day tasks that we all engage in and are essential for an individual to life independently. Most individuals have a long-term goal of living independently from their parents or guardians, and this is an essential step in the development of an individual’s personality and self-esteem. Some individuals however, need some assistance to develop some of these skills before they can begin to live more independently, with a long-term goal of living on their own.

Development of daily living and functional life skills is often through the use of a functional life skills program. These programs are generally structured around six main areas of development, but also consider the strengths and preferences of the individual. The six areas are:

Prompting: prompting the individual to participate in the activity – prompts can be verbal, gestural, modelling (i.e. showing the action or task), video footage or physical

Fading: reducing the frequency of prompting over time

Reinforcement: provide reinforcement to encourage engaging in the task and continuing to improve the skill

Chaining: linking the specific task to the strengths of the individual. This area includes breaking the task down into smaller, achievable segments

Schedules: this includes the development and implementation of functional schedules

Rules: development and implementation of basic rules to assist in facilitating the development of the task or skills

The typical skills and programs that Developmental Educators work on can include: Transport programs, Cooking programs, Personal hygiene & Self-care – dressing, feeding, etc.

Independent living – house cleaning, laundry, shopping, etc.

Emotional Awareness and Identification

Emotional awareness and identification, or self-regulation as it is commonly known, is an individual’s ability to identify and monitor their own feelings and behaviours. This allows the individual to understand what they are feeling and why. Being able to self-regulate supports the individual to manage and control their emotional responses to various situations by understanding their behaviour and developing strategies to control them.

There are a range of skills and individual characteristics that support self-regulatory behaviours by focusing the individual’s attention on how they regulate their emotions and how they manage their thought process.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is used to help develop an individual’s self-regulatory skills, by developing processes and strategies to assist with managing emotions and thoughts and coping with different situations. When using DBT for emotional regulation, it focuses on: Identifying and labelling, Emotions, Identifying obstacles, Reducing vulnerability brought forward by the emotional mind & Increasing positive emotions.