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Pandemic and Special Need for Children

Pandemic and Special Need for Children

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COVID-19 COVID-19

By: Rittika Bhattacharjya

The world we knew has changed in the past 2 years since the pandemic hit. With uncertainty and no proper treatment the health and medical sector has been struggling each day to find a definite cure. While taking care of the physical health of the people, mental health totally got ignored initially. With awareness and proper training slowly and steadily people started to take care of their mental health.

Government has also taken a lot of initiative in this regard to provide therapy to individuals during the pandemic through different modes possible and this contributed to the awareness of mental health among people. Within mental health, one of the most affected were the children with neurodevelopmental disorders.

Neurodevelopmental disorders fall under the category of disability where majorly the brain and the neurological system get affected. Neurodevelopmental disorders include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, learning disabilities, intellectual disability, conduct disorders, cerebral palsy, etc. The common areas where children face difficulties if they get diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder include motor skills, language and speech, behavior, memory, cognition, social development, self help skills and academics. Every day many children are getting diagnosed with neuro-developmental disorders. Research says that by the age of 8 years, more than 3.3 million children get diagnosed with neuro-developmental disorders.

It has been two years that schools are closed and children are at home. The question of the hour is how the children are coping with these situations, especially the ones with special needs. Social development is one area which gets affected in the case of special needs children. If they get diagnosed with Autism or any other neurodevelopmental disorder, they are already susceptible to social withdrawal and with the pandemic going on for such a long time, it gets difficult for children with neurodevelopmental disorders to bridge the gap in the developmental milestones that they are facing. With this, it has become important to adjust to the new normal. With so much uncertainty and risk to health outside, it

has become important to provide therapy and intervention to children as well as parents at home through the online mode.

When a child gets diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder, it is not only the child that struggles but also the family. Parents have to go through a lot in dealing with the situation. Emotionally it gets difficult for them to cope and since the topic of mental health in India brings along a lot of stigma, socially also they are at times forced to go in a cocoon. Because of this, parents go through different emotions leading to stress, anxiety and de-motivation in life. Hence, it is very important that along with children parents should also go for therapy and counseling.

Research says that the need for therapy and intervention among children and adolescents is very high. But currently because of the ongoing pandemic it is getting difficult for psychologists, counselors, and various other child specialists to provide physical therapy face to face. In this light, it is very important to put emphasis on online mode of therapy, so that mental health experts can help special needs children, adolescents and parents in dealing with their problems. With this, the responsibility of the parents

increases a lot more as they now have to take full responsibility of conducting activities at home. With proper guidance and support from experts, home intervention is definitely possible.

Home intervention means therapy at home. Here, sessions are conducted at home with the child, parents and primary caregivers. Sometimes, therapists can visit the house and provide it. But due to the pandemic, it is not possible. In the scene of the pandemic, home intervention through the online mode has become necessary. Children suffering from neurodevelopmental disorders need therapy at the earliest. Delay in receiving therapy might lead to difficulties in bridging the gap that they are facing. So, it is important that parents come forward for home intervention through online mode of therapy.

 

Home intervention includes different methods of therapy that therapists can use for the betterment of the child as well as the parent. Techniques like Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), Play Therapy, Behavior Modification, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Art Therapy, etc can be used by mental health experts. The guidance to parents that is been given during home intervention plays a major role in determining

the progress of the child. Every child has his/her own pace of learning and growth. So, parents should not compare their children with others. In some the progress is faster and in some it might be a little slow. But with therapy it is definitely sure that progress will take place. In case of parents also, through training they can learn adequate parenting skills which is necessary to handle their children. Sometimesdue to lack of knowledge and proper parenting skills, it gets difficult for parents to handle their child’s behavior which in turn can bring behavior issues like non-compliance, disobedience, temper tantrums and meltdowns in their children. So being a mindful parent is very necessary while bringing up your

child. With home intervention through online mode as one of the ways of treating neurodevelopmental disorders, it will be possible for mental health professionals to provide therapy to a large amount of children, adolescents and parents inspite of the geographical area they are located in.

Mental health experts are striving day in and day out to make a difference and help the people in need. Parents and all the people in need should come out of the cocoon and set an example that taking care of mental health is as normal as taking care of physical health. Spreading the awareness, having acceptance, being sensitive, talking about each other’s problem and building a safe community is very necessary in today’s ever changing world. Henceforth, let us unite and work towards removing the stigma associated with mental health and make this world a safe place for all.