Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Paediatric Early Intervention

Act early to help your child.

Developmental problems can hinder your child’s ability to learn essential skills while growing up. Find out how early intervention is helping parents and children improve their quality of life.

Article by : Dr Namita G Shenai
Article posted On Thursday, January 28, 2010 on www.timeswellness.com

Early intervention is indeed the ‘in’ term in the field of habilitation medicine. The word habilitation medicine might be a new term for many as it is rarely used. It means to teach a skill that was never learnt while rehabilitation means to enable an individual to relearn a skill already learnt.
Research on early development has shown that ‘a window for learning begins at birth.’ The clear link between early brain activity and brain development provides the building blocks for life-long learning and function – including entering school ready to learn and families learning of local resources for current and future needs. When there is a diagnosis of a disability or developmental concern at birth, or soon thereafter, early intervention results in greater developmental gains for a child.
Early intervention consists of provision of services for neonates, infants, toddlers and their families for the purpose of lessening the effects of the condition. The Early intervention team consists of a gynaecologist, neonatologist, developmental paediatrician, paediatric occupational therapist, paediatric physiotherapist, speech therapist, nurse, medical social worker.
It focuses on the child and the family. Early intervention programs are centre-based, home-based, hospital-based, or a combination. Services range from identification--that is, hospital screening and referral services--to diagnostic and direct intervention programs. Paediatric occupational therapists working in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) identify neonates at risk for developmental delay such as those who have low birth weight, preterm babies, those having birth asphyxia, jaundice, meconium aspiration (swallowing of stools), congenital anomalies, and seizure disorders. They use standardized evaluation and assessment tools to predict neurodevelopmental outcomes. This is followed by intervention in the NICU followed by a detailed home program and regular follow-ups till one year of age.
There are three primary reasons for intervening early with a child:
  • To enhance the child's development,
  • To provide support and assistance to the family
  • To maximize the child's and family's benefit to society
The cost is less when intervention is earlier, preventing developmental problems that would have required special services later in life. Timing of intervention becomes particularly important when a child runs the risk of missing an opportunity to learn during a state of maximum readiness. If the most teachable moments or stages of greatest readiness are not taken advantage of, a child may have difficulty learning a particular skill at a later time.
Early intervention helps reduce the additional stresses and frustrations families of infants and toddlers with disabilities experience, enhancing both the child and the family. Supported families need less out-of-home placement. Statistics demonstrate less abuse and neglect occurs for children receiving early intervention services.
They also have a significant impact on the parents and siblings of an exceptional infant or young child. The family of a young exceptional child often feels disappointment, social isolation, added stress, frustration, and helplessness. The compounded stress of the presence of an exceptional child may affect the family's well-being and interfere with the child's development. Parents of gifted preschoolers also need early services so that they may better provide the supportive and nourishing environment needed by the child.
The child's increased developmental and educational gains and decreased dependence upon social institutions, the family's increased ability to cope with the presence of an exceptional child, and perhaps the child's increased eligibility for employment, all provide economic as well as social benefits.
It is essential that awareness on part of the government and the medical fraternity is the need of the hour to reduce the effects of neurological deficits in later life for the future of our dear children.

The doctor is a paediatric occupational therapist at the DISHA Centre, Santacruz, Mumbai.

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