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Bridging the gaps

Anitha Pailoor, Sep 11 2017, 23:59 IST
Multidisciplinary: A session in progress at Com DEALL Trust in Bengaluru.

Multidisciplinary: A session in progress at Com DEALL Trust in Bengaluru.

Society says I am autistic, but god says I am fine.” “It seems that for success in science or art, a dash of autism is required.” These are some of the slogans we see quite often in recent times. “There is more awareness and acceptance now, but at the same time the number of children with this developmental disorder is on the rise. And there are very few concerted efforts to address the issue,” says Dr Prathibha Karanth, founder director of Communication DEALL (Developmental Eclectic Approach to Language Learning) Trust (Com DEALL Trust) based in Bengaluru.

Optimising the child’s potential

A speech language pathologist with over four decades of experience, Prathibha started the trust in 2000 when she felt the need on the ground for an integrated intervention programme for kids with developmental language disorders including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). “Earlier it used to be considered as a rare disorder. Unlike in the past when we used to consider very severe ones as autism, the entire range is covered now. A lot of research is going on and as of now, we do not know the cause and without knowing the cause, there is no cure. Early identification and intervention will help alleviate the disorder and optimise the child’s potential to join the mainstream,” she says.

With this objective, the trust developed unique intervention programmes to cater to the specific needs of kids. Com DEALL runs multidisciplinary intervention programmes for children in the age group of zero to six years with the goal of integrating them into regular school. The intervention spans from one to three years. Com DEALL stands out from other institutes that offer clinical services with its integrated approach through group interventions. Unlike other places, here sessions are planned in such a way that the experts — speech therapist, physiotherapist or occupational therapist and developmental psychologist — working with the children interact and work collectively. This helps them identify the kid’s strengths and challenges. “In the course of our profession, we have worked with children and they have done well. Our intervention is not only integrated but also intensive,” says Prathibha. Nearly 80% of the children trained here continue in mainstream schools.

Complementary to its intervention programmes, the trust does research and development to ensure that the kids get the best from them. The resources thus developed include teaching tools on social skills and pragmatic skills for parents and professionals, training material, manuals and assessment tools. To nurture professionals in the field, the trust conducts a postgraduate diploma course. The team conducts awareness programmes to ensure early identification and intervention.

Prathibha points to the fact that there has been a lack of professional input in the field as the number of trained and committed clinicians available is less. “Working in a service-oriented set-up is not as remunerative as working in the corporate sector. As a result, there are only a few resource units that provide intensive intervention programmes,” says Prathibha. The inclusive nature of the programme meant that there was demand for expansion in other regions as well. As a result, now Com DEALL has 25 branches across India.

For efficient replication

Still, the service provided was not proportionate to the requirement. To ensure efficient replication, Prathibha and her team decided to develop the programme into a viable alternative model. In 2005, Com DEALL Trust, with support from Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust, initiated a project with the goal of developing an indigenous model to ease the process of replication of Com DEALL programme in other parts of the country.

Initially, the team compiled checklists for various aspects of child development. Based on that, they prepared user-friendly lesson plans that suit the requirements of socio-economic and cultural conditions of the country. These have been published as two sets (toddlers and preschoolers) of four manuals, covering the domains of motor skills, communication skills and cognitive, social and emotional skills. These manuals have set a benchmark for the therapy of children with developmental language disorders as most of the models in India that practitioners follow are largely based on western models. These manuals have now been translated into regional languages like Kannada, Hindi and Malayalam. To know more, visit www.communicationdeall.com.

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