Early Care is a support and stimulation service for children with specific needs (cerebral paralysis, Down Syndrome, general developmental disorders, poor audition, deafness, poor vision, blindness…) or at risk of suffering one (prematurity, low weight at birth…). The programme focuses on children of 0 to 6 years old, because at this period cerebral plasticity allows the greater and optimal results.
The different sections of this article have been assembled into the following table of contents.
At what age should we start?
Starting age is case-dependent. There are children that require special care since their very birth, like children who lack the sucking reflex. Premature or underweighted children should start during the first month of life. Other children begin the intervention once the family notices that some developmental milestones have not been achieved.
How is the intervention structured?
Games and positive reinforcement are the fundamental pillars of Early Care. First, the child is evaluated to find out in which development stage he/she is. Next, a set of short term and long term goals are defined. Later, a series of games and stimulating activities are designed to achieve the goals previously settled. The child, alongside his/her parents, will take part in the games and activities. It is of the utmost importance that the parents learn how to play, since they are going to spend more time with the child.
What is the role of the family?
It is the family who makes the actual intervention. The role of the specialist focuses on the initial evaluation: he/she checks if the goals are achieved and facilitates resources to the parents. The Early Care specialist guides the family in the whole intervention process.
We know great results can be achieved, but parents must also acknowledge it in order to reach a total implication.
That is the reason why an essential feature of Early Care is to instruct the parents, they are the ones who have the chance to identify the best moment to play. Moreover, they will be able to can apply such techniques to their everyday life situations as diaper changing, bath time, meal times, etc.
What is the purpose of Early Care?
An integral development of the child: covering its psychomotor, cognitive, and language development. All this will be achieved through games.
Early Care is about making the children sharp and curious individuals; curiosity and knowledge of the environment makes us autonomous and skillful persons.
Frequently asked questions about Early Care
Will I know when the child needs help?
Everybody tells me that each one has its own pace. That is true, every child has its own pace, every one grows in a different context. There are scales of infant development published by many authors, easily to find in general bookshops. Even health centres can give us material on this issue.
At early ages, 6 month of delay in the achievement of a goal requires the advise of an early care specialist. Not being able to walk when they are already 18 months old, to talk at age 2 or if they have an incomprehensible speech at the age of 3 are not necessarily red flags, but a reason to consultation. Not everybody has the same pace, but we are pleased to be helped in difficult situations.
Is it true that I can overstimulate my children?
It is very hard to overstimulate a child, we should offer the children a stimulus regardless the signs of refusal he or she might manifest. When a baby does not to stare at something, listen to a stimulus or do something, he/she lets us know by stepping back or crying; we should respect that and cease. If we ignore that, we are exposing the baby to a stressful event and our goal would be impossible to achieve; instead we have to wait until the baby is ready again.
What is an attention deficit? And what about hyperactivity?
Attention is an ability we acquire throughout our development. The attention deficit is a biological condition consisting on the lack of regulatory power on the attention levels.
There are two types:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, with low levels of sustained attention, making the children distracted by any stimulus, no matter how weak the stimulus is, so they cannot quietly do the task assigned.
- Attention deficit disorder without hyperactivity (unattentive), lower levels of attentional quality, the children cannot distinguish primary stimulus from secondary stimulus.
Indicators cannot be identified until age 3, and a reliable diagnosis cannot be pronounced until 5 years of age. Either case, there are activities that stimulate attention from the very moment of birth.
Will my child be happy?
It is quite common amongst parents to wonder that question when their child is born with a disorder or a disorder develops over the course of his/her life. The answer is YES, of course the child can be happy. Nonetheless, we parents have to learn to be happy and teach that to our children. The first step is acceptation, and later comes adaptation to a new, different situation. We should teach our children what is going on with them, what the annoyances of the situations are and also its silver linings, with a special enphasys on the latter.
What is the best age to tell our child what that situation is?
As soon as possible. The most important thing is to deal with the situation with frankness and without drama. Children, regardless their age, can discriminate the differences, and questions arise as soon as they develop a speech. We should never dodge their questions, they need to understand what is going on to adapt quickly and naturally, they need to understand why they are as different as worthy.