Mirra Charitable Trust conducted a 11-day workshop on “Promoting Holistic Development in Children” from May 12, 2014 to May 23, 2014.  The focus of the workshop was on holistic understanding of development, understanding individual child profile and formulating strategies to promote learning in every child.

Physical and sensorial exploration is crucial for laying the foundation for academic learning. Due to life style changes, these areas have been neglected and the workshop highlighted the importance of motor and sensorial exploration for development of perceptual skills. Hence the workshop was aptly named “Brain – Here, there and Everywhere”.

The main topics covered were:

  • Central Nervous system and learning- Understanding that learning is the result of formation of connection between Neurons (Brain Cells) called Neural Pathways.  Formation of nodes in the synapse (space where 2 cells meet) reduces the resistance, helping message to travel faster resulting in fluency of learnt concepts/skills and establishing connections resulting in thinking and problem-solving in real life situations.Understanding that when one portion of the brain does not function optimally, other portions can be stimulated to compensate, which is the underlying principle of Special Education.
  • Normal development and sensory integration – Understanding the process involved in sensory integration and its dysfunction. Discussion on how experience can be used as a tool to enhance sensory integration, systematic desensitization of hypersensitivity and augmenting appropriate activities for sensory seeking.
  • Perceptual development – Understanding the process involved in perceptual development (E.g Perceptual Motor match –  Hand-eye co-ordination, Figure Ground , Motor control, perception, conceptual understanding etc). Gaps in mastery of any of these stages could lead to impulsivity, distraction and hyperactivity as in ADHD or ADD or difficulties in 3Rs.
  • Promoting positive behavior – Discussion on ABCs of behavior and strategies to promote positive behavior and prevent inappropriate behavior and the need for the parents/adults to be relaxed, stable, positive and non-judgmental.
  • Enhancing “3Rs” (Reading, Arithmetic and Writing) – Building up foundations for promoting reading, writing and arithmetic in children. Understanding processes involved in teaching early reading and math. Discussion on importance of generalization of learnt concepts, how children understand math, decoding and comprehension, reading for joy and reading being related to the experience of the child.
  • Arriving at current performance levels and setting basic goals– Discussion on arriving at current performance levels. Sharing monthly goals with parents and providing strategies to create experiences relating to goals at home to help children engage and attend better when lessons are taught in class
  • Facilitating inclusion in schools- Discussions focusing on promoting effective inclusion of the child into mainstream environment and how collaborative work is needed between the professionals, teachers and parents to make inclusion effective.

The participants of the workshop included heads of schools, special educators, child counselor and parents of kids with special needs.

Feed Back on Brain – Here There and Everywhere

Feedback from Sneha

The workshop was very insightful and focussed so beautifully on how in a very positive and empathetic manner one can help a child reach her maximum potential. More than all the tons of technical information and jargon the course outlined how one could in a very systematic and consistent manner reach out to a child while keeping in mind her specific need and difficulty. It was a wonderful experience to meet with teachers and other parents and hear how each had so innovatively devised ways to teach.

For me personally the workshop first helped me understand how hard a child with a disability struggles to cope and how important it is to be supportive, how so many aspects of day to day function and behaviour are affected by a difficulty. Also gave me a very clear step by step path to tackle various learning issues, much like building a wall rather than a helter skelter approach I was following based on the final output. The emphasis on building a rich learning experience was invaluable.

As a parent I really feel that modules on ‘Promoting Positive Behavior’ and how including the child in everyday activities at home is helpful for any child to develop various skills  should be shared with all parents especially fathers and all teachers.

Mallika it was amazing how you had woven all the modules together with so much information and very practical techniques to support the process while allowing us to interact and introspect through the entire workshop. Every moment was such an eye opener and I am glad I was able to be a part of the entire workshop.

A special thanks to Mirra and all my classmates for having Keerthana and me in the class  inspite of all the interuptions we created. It has definately not only helped me grow as a parent but been a source of great comfort to know my child can get better and overcome all her difficulties and lead a perfectly normal life .

Feedback from Ramya

One of the first and most important revelation I got from the workshop was how empathy can effect in motivated, sustained learning and self-confidence in my child. As a parent, over a period of time, in my rush to overcome self-imposed time bombs, I had forgotten to enhance my child’s natural ability to cope amidst the unimaginable difficulties he has. To internalize empathy and to tell my child ‘I can see how difficult it is for you, but let me help you’ was a powerful reminder. 

I sincerely thank all in the Mirra team for constantly doing that and setting examples for us parents to follow.

I understand how vital the integration of all areas (Motor, Perception, Language, Communication, social skills, Math) are, for even the basic functioning of my child. The gap in one spills over to the other areas. Hence the need to balance and have a holistic development is even more crucial. 

And what better way than doing that in the natural environment, giving them the real ‘experience’ and making it dynamic, interesting and fun? This is high on my priority list, even if it means one activity in experience takes more time. Rishi learns a life skill and with practice, he is bound to master it.

Showing or teaching through Play is perhaps the best way of initiating motivation and promoting the will of the child to learn. That is a challenging part right now as I realized I had lost the ability to play and have fun, with the only focus on the process and not the result. Same goes for incorporating lots of dramatized expressions & animated conversations. I now realize they are imperative !

The workshop has empowered me to identify key areas I need to work on, and in a systematic & prioritized way. A few minutes of interaction with my child and I was able to recognize the basis of his difficulties: inconsistent ability to have a strong foreground and retain attention. I am able to objectively evaluate and come up with creative strategies to help him.

Many times, as parents of children with special needs, we tend to think we can have no conversations or share experiences with our child. When I start engaging him in activities he likes, he responds more to me.

Viceversa too, our rapport is strengthened when I involve him in everything I do. So is my modelling as much as possible in all situations, like a simple act of giving reasons for everything I do or ask of him.

Lastly, how as a parent I can create awareness for inclusion & promote it, starting from the community I live in or interact with, everyday. Meanwhile, preparing my child for inclusion.

On a personal journey, I realized it is okay to break routines, and not be so rigid.

A huge step in self evaluation: where am I going wrong in teaching/facilitating learning if Rishi isn’t able to understand.

And this, in turn, improves my overall personality. Thanks once again to the whole Mirra team… Your optimism and sincerity is contagious !