What is the first step that I take when I notice something is not right with the child? Who are the experts that I need to approach for identifying the type of intervention?

If you notice that your child is not functioning age-appropriately in any of the areas of development or has not achieved the milestones in development, it is best to approach your paediatrician and clarify your doubts. Ask for the developmental milestones chart and check if your child’s milestones are within the range given. The paediatrician should, ideally, in turn refer you to a professional specialising in development , namely a  developmental paediatrician, a developmental therapist, special educator, psychiatrist, etc., for assessment and support.

What are the typical services rendered in a remedial centre?

A remedial centre is a space that offers remedial services that are key to the development and learning of the child with special needs. Remedial centres primarily focus on providing life skill training – therefore services include Occupational Therapy (OT), PhysioTherapy (PT), Speech and Communication and Special Education that focuses on functional learning.  Sometimes it may be a mini academic set up with children attending scholastic sessions in areas of language, science and arithmetic.  Most often the sessions are delivered on a one to one basis in the interest of the child. Group sessions are conducted at regular intervals targeting specific goals.  Remedial centres also work with the parents and child on communication and social goals. Occupational therapy is also offered in most remedial centres to provide a means of facilitating age appropriate goals and outcomes in academic, leisure and social activities. Parent training modules and workshops are also periodically held to promote awareness and understanding among parents and the general public. In summary, remedial centres focus on holistic development of the child so that the child is led towards becoming an independent and confident person.

What are the various therapies and how do they impact my child?

Presently there are a multitude of therapies offered to persons with disabilities. Some of the common therapies that are given to a child with special needs are Physiotherapy (PT), Occupational Therapy (OT), Sensory Integration Therapy (SI), Speech and language therapy, Behaviour therapy, Cognitive therapy, Special education, and Arts-based therapy.

These therapies address the issues related to development and learning and aims at facilitating the child to  become an independent functioning individual.

When do I know that it is time to wean out the therapy?

Therapy in a remedial setting can be weaned off when the child has made progress and has outgrown the services of the centre or also when the parent has been empowered to work with the child.

What is Physical Literacy? How important it is in the development of my child?

Physical literacy is a fundamental and valuable human capability that can be described as a disposition acquired by human individuals encompassing the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding that establishes purposeful physical pursuits as an integral part of their lifestyle. Physical literacy is essential today because the outdoor games and activities that filled our childhood and helped us develop movement skills have been replaced by more screen time and inactivity. This is why we need to prioritize physical literacy for children.

Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_literacy

What is the Impact of visual and social media on my child?

Prolonged screen time , at any age, affects both the vision and development of the child. Mobile and tablet usage in the early years hinders direct interaction with environment and people. This would in turn impact the exploration and experience gained by the child. The child gets easily addicted to media. Unlike the real environment, there is no demand from the virtual environment (media). This would lead to the child not getting engaged with the environment and people around, thereby delaying the overall development including the social interaction.

What is the right kind of food for my child?

Any food that is fresh and easily digestible and good for the gut is always recommended. Before avoiding any food item, it is better to administer an allergy test to check whether the child is allergic or not. However, it needs to be ensured that the nutritional alternate is provided when avoiding any food item that is generally healthy. Balanced diet should not be compromised under any circumstances

It is better to avoid processed and packaged foods. The intake of sugar and dairy products can be minimized.

What is a home program? What are the benefits of Home Program?

Home program is a goal oriented practice of skills and activities that complements any therapy. Home is a place that values the family’s primary relationship with their child. Remedying doesn’t stop at therapy room but should be continued at home thus helping the child in maintaining the flow of learning.  This program is tailor-made interventions for every child considering their specific needs. This program is implemented only after setting these custom goals in collaboration with the parent.  Parents can work very closely with their child and have full control of their development.

Benefits: Parents are empowered to handle and learn how to use interventions, as home is the real life environment. The therapist and parents become partners in the course of the child’s development. Home program increases the opportunities for practices of skill and activities that improve gross motor skills, self-care, behaviour and communication thus aiding lasting positive changes in the child.

What is the appropriate age to start intervention?

Any neurological, orthopaedic, genetic and sensory difficulty needs intervention at the earliest from a professional.  For children who are overactive and under responsive, environment at home should be conducive for play and interaction. The right home environment would help in addressing many of the developmental milestones . Guidance from a professional on setting up the right environment at home along with the program to be followed will help in working towards developmental milestone. Structured exploration and experience should be given to the child as experiential learning will work as a catalyst in the overall development of a child.

What are some strategies of developing communication in a non-verbal child?

To begin with it is important to see how much receptive language is present and how much potential is there for building receptive language. For example, using cards and physical movement, is the child able to label nouns and their functions and is he able to follow commands involving action words? This is because in some instances children do not actually understand language and there is no point in going forward with expressive language through non-verbal means until receptive language is built. As receptive language progresses, expressive language can be explored through gestures, Alternative Augmentative Communication(AAC).

How do I develop communication in my child?

Exposure and experiences are very important for the child as he builds his receptive language. We need to talk about the experience and bring it to their attention in words as many children do not notice things in their environment explicitly. The child has to be made to use the words for him/her to register the same. The environment should enable the child for active communication. Course corrections can be brought in through recording of responses and reviewing it with the child.

Should I focus on academics or life skills?

At any point in time, the priority should be the development of life skills so that the child is independent. Pursuing academics simultaneously depends on where the child is in terms of language ability, age and learning readiness. Each child has to be assessed and reviewed to determine the program to be followed. In case the child is not ready for mainstream academics, functional academics will help the child in leading an independent life.

What is Functional Curriculum?

Functional Curriculum is a curriculum that takes into account the functional skills needed to live life.

Functional skills are those skills that are necessary for a child to be successful across environments. These skills include: transitioning from one location to another, eating, dressing, following directions, and social and communication skills. A functional curriculum teaches these skills using materials that have meaning to the child and relevance to his/her everyday life. The curriculum should encourage independence by teaching life skills, and should address developmentally appropriate goals.

Functional Curriculum is the way to life skill development and independence. Functional curriculums teach academic and language skills, and link them to the routines children participate in throughout the day. Linking newly acquired language and academic skills to everyday routines helps develop important life skills. Having a functional curriculum in the classroom starts to develop these critical skills early on, which will pave the way to developing greater independence and important life skills into adulthood.

What are some of the career avenues for my child post 21 years?

There are many organizations conducting functional hands on program to enable the young adult to pursue a career. In addition, there are also organizations that cater to the placement of these young adults in an appropriate job. Depending on the child’s ability and interest, career avenues can range from vocational to multimedia, fine arts etc.

How does arts play a role in my child’s development?

“So much of the issue with children with special needs has to do with the lack of community, isolation and being alone. The arts are about community, and through this, young people can build communication, empathy and make friends. When you have that, you can do anything.”

The visual arts activate the internal visual processing system to recall reality or create fantasy with the same ease. Research also suggests that dance and music training affect the brain in directions opposite to one another, which increases global connectivity. Additionally, drama provokes specialised networks that focus on spoken language and stimulate emotions. Arts Based Therapy opens avenues to bring multiple arts to our children and facilitate learning through singing, playing instruments, games/exercises and drama. The arts provides opportunities for artistic self-expression which “helps children to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and, foster self-awareness, manage behaviour,, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem and achieve insight”.

What is play therapy? How does it impact my child?

Play is the word always attached to the life of a child. As a child we were fond of playing, where we are engaged, present in that moment and being joyful in the company of toys or people around us. Fun, movement, excitement, interest and the list will go on as soon as thought of play flashes our minds.

Haim G. Ginott (1960, 243) coined the phrase, “toys are the child’s words and play is the child’s language”.

Perfectly described, play is really important for a child’s development. It facilitates the child’s social, physical, language, emotional and cognitive development. During play the child is involved in a sensory motor way with objects that symbolises his/her abstract emotions. That’s why Jean Piaget (1962) proposed that play bridges the gap between concrete experience and abstract thought.