The Master's Degree in Early Intervention is a pioneering programme designed to provide post graduate level study for those who wish to develop or enhance knowledge and experience working with young children with disabilities and/or Special Educational Needs (SEN).

Six students in a lecture theatre

Course Details

The programme explores international theoretical frameworks, policy and research on Early Intervention and contemporary evidence-informed inclusive practice supporting young children with additional needs and their families. This Master’s strand is inter-disciplinary including lectures from experts in Education, Policy, Psychology, Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy and focuses on childhood development and Early Intervention for young children experiencing challenges to their development due to a range of Neurodevelopmental Disorders including for example: ASD, DCD, AD(H)D, ID, SLD. Modules will focus on effective strategies and skills in assessment, design, implementation, teaching and evaluation of interventions to positively impact children’s development needs.  

The programme will focus on childhood development and early intervention for children experiencing challenges to their development. It will prepare students to support children from birth to six years. It will enrich knowledge and practice relating to assessment, design, implementation, and evaluation of interventions to positively impact the developmental needs of young children with disabilities and/or SEN.

The general competencies that will be focused on are: knowledge of child development, early identification and intervention, family-focused early intervention, and trans-disciplinary team approaches to intervention. The programme is innovative in its interdisciplinary approach to Early Intervention. Students will be taught by lecturers representing a range of disciplines; reflecting contemporary developments in the area. The programme will benefit students who work directly with children and their families. The programme will promote evidence based practice relating to supporting the young child in the context of the family as well as within a variety of early education and intervention settings.

The Master's Degree in Early Intervention is guided by developmental, ecological, family and transactional systems theories and philosophies that emphasise the interactive nature of child development. The programme will address the need for additional training and supervision for professionals to adequately support children and families. It will draw upon a range of approaches that acknowledge the central role of the family in a child's life. It will also provide comprehensive knowledge and expertise in Early Intervention reflecting contemporary evidence based practice. It is designed to be academically and personally challenging. Students will be exposed to critical theoretical and practical frameworks as well as opportunities to reflect on existing practice.

Who is this course for?

This stimulating programme is designed to provide post graduate level study for those who wish to develop or enhance knowledge and experience working with young children with disabilities and/or Special Educational Needs (SEN). The Early Intervention strand has been developed to meet the needs of educators, practitioners and professionals supporting children in a range of Early Years settings. The programme is also aimed at graduates from a number of cognate areas (Early Years Education, Primary Teaching, Psychology, Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Social Work, Social Care, and Policy etc.) who wish to support children with disabilities and additional needs (0-6 years) and enrich their existing knowledge and practice.

Rational for Programme

A substantial proportion of children in Ireland experience disability or special educational needs (SEN). There is unequivocal evidence that children with disabilities or SEN benefit from quality early childhood intervention. Early Intervention is aimed at a societal level to improve the developmental outcomes of children in the home or education settings. The School of Education is uniquely positioned to contribute to international developments in Early Intervention as it forefronts academic excellence and service to the community.

Interdisciplinary Nature of Programme

The programme will be interdisciplinary in nature. It will benefit from contributions from a range of disciplines including but not exclusive to Education, Psychology, Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, the Social Sciences, etc. An interdisciplinary approach will integrate programme content emphasising optimal delivery approaches ranging from discipline-specific, to transdisciplinary frameworks required to support children with disabilities or SEN in the home, preschool, special class or school setting. Students will experience a team approach that reflects current best practice in the field.

This strand of the M.Ed. programme will consist of four strand specific modules (55ECTS in total), a M.Ed. module in Academic Literacy and Research Methods (5ECTS), and a dissertation (30ECTS).

Module 1 will present an overview of the historical, contemporary, legislative and research frameworks regarding the development of Early Intervention. It will comprise elements that are foundational to key concepts underpinning early childhood development drawing on knowledge from the fields of Neuroscience, Psychology and Education to create a better understanding of how children learn and how we can create more effective teaching methods, curricula and educational policy.

Module 2 will focus on the screening, assessment and identification of children aged (0-6 years) at risk of disabilities and SEN. It will illustrate the integrative role of play in observation, linking assessment to quality intervention and interpreting strategies and outcomes to parents and other professionals.

Module 3 will emphasise the need for optimal intervention design, implementation and evaluation for children with specific SEN/disabilities, for example ASD. This module will incorporate appropriate specialist concepts and practices supporting effective intervention and pedagogies focusing on inclusion where interventions may enrich environmental contexts and interactions, benefiting inclusive educational programming (at preschool, special class/unit and early primary level), where children with SEN are educated alongside their peers. It will also examine how professionals support family members at critical times of transition from one educational environment to another.

Module 4 will present content on effective individual, team and multi-agency approaches to Early Intervention. It will explore multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches, encouraging students' capacity to collaborate with other disciplinary professionals as well as family members. It will reconceptualise professional identity development and evaluate frameworks and models of professional adaptation and change processes while cognisant of the dual need for collaboration and practitioner self-reflection. It will critically reframe existing professional practices and evaluate perceptions, attitudes and values that influence and promote evidence based practice.

Research Component (Thesis)

As reflected in the University Strategic Plan (2014-2019) a 'Trinity education is rooted in a curriculum inspired by current research and scholarship' (p.3). The Early Intervention professional will be encouraged to demonstrate knowledge of current research related to the profession. The thesis component of the programme aims to incorporate empirical research with an emphasis on the applicability of research methodology to enhance professional practice in Early Intervention and Educational settings.

Benefits for Participants

Early Intervention professionals will develop competencies and skills to support children and families in line with evidence based practice.

Participants will benefit from the attainment of specialist knowledge in the area of assessment/diagnosis as well as the opportunity to design and implement educational programmes and interventions for young children (0-6 years).

Participants will have the opportunity to create and develop new partnerships through an emphasis on collaboration with other disciplines.

An emphasis on the inclusive elements of educational programmes will highlight the need to design and support intervention to take place in naturalistic environments.


Students' capacity to perform as knowledgeable experts will be nurtured throughout the course. Students will gain confidence and competence in their ability to respond constructively to the needs of children with disabilities/SEN and their families. Students will also benefit from opportunities to enhance their individual and professional capacities as well as having opportunities to reflect on their role.

Career Opportunities

Programme candidates may be equipped to work in areas including education and childcare; supporting children with additional needs in early years settings or with specialist voluntary bodies including disability organisations.

Occasionally graduates of M.Ed programmes aspire towards management. As a graduate, there are generally better prospects in terms of career advancement in the area relative to your degree.

Further information

For enquiries about course content please contact Dr Amber O'Shea ( For all other enquiries, including information about how to apply, please contact Jess Freeman/Sorcha Grisewood, the programme's administrators ( / Tel: 00-353-1-8961290.

Who would benefit from Early Intervention?

All children from infancy and through school age [0-6 years] who are at risk of disability or are experiencing additional needs would benefit from Early Intervention.

Can you describe what additional needs will be addressed during the course of the Master's programme?

Lecturers will address the following areas of need as relevant to course delivery:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders/ADHD
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Down syndrome
  • Developmental delays
  • Social and communicative difficulties
  • Speech and Language disorders
  • Dyslexia/Dyspraxia/Dyscalculia
  • Multiple and complex disabilities
  • Physical and Sensory disabilities
  • Children who are traumatised as a result of war or catastrophic world events
  • Children who are refugees or migrants
  • Infant Mental Health

What is Family Centred Practice in Early Intervention?

Family Centred Practice is based on international best practice in early childhood intervention. It incorporates family support serving young children with and without disabilities and delays that adopts and applies family-centered principles and practices for implementing or providing different kinds of child, parent, parent-child, and family-level support in the natural setting.

What does Early Intervention do for the child?

Early intervention is a support and educational system for very young children which enhances the child's: learning, language development, concept development, functional communication, social interaction, emotional and physical development.

This course is an interdisciplinary course. What are the different disciplines involved in the delivery of the course.

This course involves professionals from a number of disciplines including Education, Psychology, Speech and Language therapy, Occupational Therapy, Policy development and analysis, Early Childhood Development, Coaching Psychology, Disability Studies, Nursing, and Paediatrics. Lecturers representing these disciplines will present on the identification, assessment and intervention required to address young children's needs.

How will this course enhance my ability to support young children with additional needs and their parents or family members?

This course will provide students with knowledge and skills which will improve their competence, confidence and ability to support young children with additional needs and their families.

If I have no experience of Early Intervention, is this course suitable for me?

Yes, this course will prepare students with or without experience, who are passionate about working with young children with additional needs and their families. It will prepare students for working in Early Intervention or early years settings where these children are being included.

Does this course focus on inclusion?

Inclusion is a core principle of Early Intervention. This course will prioritise addressing the child's individual needs in Early Intervention and inclusive early years settings or school environments.