Taking remedial measures

PARENTING


There is no doubt that the first few years of a child’s life are a particularly sensitive period in the process of development. It’s the time when the foundation is laid for cognitive functioning, behavioural, social and self-regulatory abilities and physical health. During this period, a child’s developmental abilities are evaluated and if necessary, the child is guided to receive therapy or other types of early intervention.

Get the basics right

Early intervention is a process of assessment and therapy provided to children, especially those younger than 6 years, to facilitate normal cognitive and emotional development and to prevent developmental disability or delay. It can be both remedial and preventive in nature. The aim is manifold: to enhance the child’s development, to provide support and assistance to the family, and to maximise the child’s and family’s benefit to society. It can result in parents having improved attitudes about themselves and their child, improved information and skills for teaching their child, and more release time for leisure and employment.

Parents of intellectually gifted pre-schoolers also need early services so that they may better provide the supportive and nourishing environment needed by the child.

Benefits

Major developmental areas where early intervention helps: Physical development: A child’s ability to move, see and hear.

Language and speech development: This also includes a child’s ability to tackle self-care functions such as feeding and dressing.

Cognitive development: A child’s ability to think and learn. The Remediation Programme is put together by:

* Development teachers/ Special educators
* Occupational therapists/ Physical therapists
* Psychologists/ psychiatrists
* Speech and language pathologists/ audiologists

Diagnosis, the first step

Identification of children who need and can benefit from early intervention is important. Diagnostic hunting by parents is on the rise. Schools are also reporting the gaps they see in the child’s development. There are several varieties of diagnostic conditions that can possibly affect children in this age group. However, multiple issues can coexist at various levels and within different degrees. For instance, a child with emotional and behavioural issues might show associated learning and attention disorders. Thus it becomes important to get an ‘intelligent’ diagnosis that takes into account such overlapping layers and also take appropriate decisions about a primary condition vs. other associated features.  An accurate diagnosis is a prelude to planning the right programme for intervention. The diagnostic label provides both a target and a direction for the programme.

Guard against labels

However, parents must guard against getting carried away in finding the ‘right’ label for their child. A search for a diagnostic confirmation will only result in loss of precious time.
Schools must not discount the child’s strengths if (s)he has been diagnosed with any disability. Tagging the child with all features of a diagnosis will put the intervention programme on a wrong track. A child with hearing impairment may be a loner or may shy away from his peers due to his inability to communicate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he has impairment in social interaction — a feature of autism.

Family involvement

One of the most powerful ways to achieve maximum and quick results is to extend the home-based training programme from professionals to parents and caregivers.

Parents of children with a disability undergo a variety of psychological reactions like shock, shame, guilt, denial and ambivalence. It is important to accept the disability at the earliest and embark on an intervention programme. While therapists and other specialists who work with your child are considered experts in their fields, they are not the most important elements of early intervention.

It’s the parents. Being informed, availing of counseling support, joining parent support groups can give you a clear perspective of the situation you and your child are in. Many of the conditions diagnosed are fairly reversible given early identification and intervention measures, particularly if your child is diagnosed ‘at risk’.

Parents have a greater investment in their child both in terms of time and emotional attachment. While professionals can bring their experience and technical knowledge, parents can provide valuable information about the child’s behaviour, interests, temperament etc. They also have greater physical and psychological proximity to the child. When parents practise the techniques at home, it aids in the child’s ability to improve. Studies have shown that when parents are not involved, therapy takes longer and the child has to work harder.

Focus on the positives

Helping a child develop an optimistic outlook can be one of the greatest gifts a parent can give.  Empowering a child with the required education, independence and self esteem is the greatest service schools can provide. 

Nowadays, children as young as 2 years are being sent to crèches and play homes due to various reasons.  Many of these play homes are housed in small spaces, giving almost no opportunity to children to develop their motor skills.

Readiness skills for various tasks required in school are also not developed because of  untrained staff, ignorance of scientifically proven  techniques and lack of a governing body for such creches.

Win-win situation

While older children do not get extensive practice on pre-walking activities or language development,  toddlers are expected to perform activities like writing that demand fine motor skills and concentration.

Some of them may do badly at reading and writing tasks and end up being labelled slow learners.  Gifted children as well as children with developmental delays/disabilities need special educational services.

Providing early intervention can increase their chances of completing high school and attending college, increase scores on achievement tests and decrease anti-social and delinquent behaviour.

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