How does early intervention affect child development? What is the role of a special educator?

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Early intervention provides us with a healthy life span by helping us to identify risky behavior or lack of developmental skills and delivering professionally appropriate services so that the child has a better functional outcome in later stages of life. It is noticed that many people in India are still unaware of early childhood developmental stages and hence due to the lack of awareness they fail to understand the early childhood problems. It has been said that from birth to the age of 5 years they are more active than any other time in life. It is vital that parents notice their child’s developmental milestones with the pediatrician. If the child is suspected to have delayed development in a particular area like expressive and receptive language, social communication, Cognitive development, motor development, neurobehavioral development, and social-emotional development or comorbid with one another. The first step the parents should take is to accept the way the child is and to start with an early intervention that will assist the child to learn new skills and become a master in it. It is advisable for early intervention because the brain has an ability to re-process the new pathway and it has a remarkable capacity for change and adaptation but timing is crucial. The earlier we create the correct connections in the child’s brain, the stronger these behaviors and skills are secured in the brain. Skills can be developed with the assistance of Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists, Behavioral Therapists, and Special educators, or Remedial Therapists.

Schooling is a very crucial part of any child’s holistic development. A teacher is said to mold the child into a better citizen by strengthening their academic, vocational, and life skills. The primary role of a teacher is to deliver classroom instructions that help students learn, productively navigate the curriculum, lesson plans should be followed regularly, provide feedback to the parents and manage classroom material. The Indian school system still struggles with poor student and teacher ratios according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco)'s report dated 5th October 2021. Hence the teachers are not able to focus on all the students as they have to complete their lesson plans within the limited time frame. It is observed that in one classroom there would be 2/3 children who are slow in learning and not able to follow so many instructions at a time. Therefore, these students are bullied, introverted, and fail to follow the curriculum.

Special Educators have the professional expertise to help special needs students. They work with students who are diagnosed with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Intellectual impairment, or cerebral palsy. Students with mild to moderate disabilities find it difficult to adapt the general curriculum in the same way as normative kids - Special educators make it easy for them to learn by teaching it in an even easier way. They also teach basic skills which include phonics, reading, writing, and Math to students with severe disabilities. A Special Educator is not a tutor but a person who works directly with the child using various playful teaching techniques or certain specific strategies pertaining to the area of difficulty. Initially, they conduct a few standardized tests and according to the scores, ability, and capacity of the child, an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is made for the child. The IEP is discussed with the parents, principal, counselor, class teacher, and caretakers. IEP contains short and long-term goals in which the child is lacking. The goals are made in a way so that the child would upgrade his/her skills. Feedback sessions are done after every 3 months and goals are discussed on the same day. With the systematic IEP goals and with the execution the therapist is able to bridge the gap. The aim is to make the child self-dependent with a holistic approach so that the child is able to survive independently and accomplish all his achievements.

Slow progress is better than no progress. Stay positive and don’t give up. Seek help if needed.

If you feel your child is need of a special educator- please visit the nearest centre.

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Anita Atgamkar
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