5 ways to encourage parent-child communication – GEARS

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Child Development, Inclusive Education

1. Gauge

The very first step is to gauge your child’s current level of communication skills. This is very important because it does 2 things – it helps us understand what they already know how to do, and it allows us to understand what our next goal should look like. You may decide that your child does not communicate at all. This is a very common response I receive from parents and educators who naturally tend to define communication as “talking”. I urge you to think about communication as far more complex than just verbal communication. A baby is capable of communicating with others through their facial expressions, gestures, body language and production of sounds. We, as adults, rely heavily on written modes of communication (notes, text messages, emails) as much as other modes of communication. The following points may help you gain an insight into your child’s communication patterns:

  • How do you know when your child is happy/sad/angry – what does your child say/do?
  • Does your child use gestures such as pointing/hand signs/leading you by hand to a place/object of desire?
  • Does your child respond to his/her name when called? If so, how does your child respond?
  • Does your child request for items that are out of reach or out of sight? If so, how does your child make their request known to you?

2. Exposure

Consistent exposure to sounds and words helps a child’s brain build the necessary pathways required for the development of verbal communication skills. Understand and accept that communication is a skill that develops gradually over a long period of time. We spend our first year listening to words and sounds before we manage to mimic it ourselves. We spend 2 years of our lives learning words before we utter a few independently. This is a slow process, but trust that consistent repetitive exposure to sounds is the best way for a child’s brain to develop sound awareness and attach meanings to words.

3. Acknowledge

Always assume your child is communicating with you, even if it is not through verbal means. For young children and children who are developmentally delayed, it is normal for a child to prefer to communicate his/her feelings and thoughts in non-verbal manners – mainly through behaviours and body language. It is even normal for us adults to refrain from using words when we are feeling an intense emotion – think about adults giving each other the silent treatment or others who display their anger by slamming the table, storming off or giving each other the death stare. These are all normal expressions and ways to communicate. Therefore, always be the detective to look out for signs when your child is communicating with you. Acknowledge these attempts by responding enthusiastically to your child.

4. Reciprocate

Always respond to communication attempts in a back-and-forth communication style. Think about an adult communicating with an infant. Eye contact, smile, use of short words e.g. “hello” and then, waiting. Waiting is the most important step. What are we waiting for? A response of course! Communication is 2-way and you need to expect your child to respond. We are expecting an infant to respond to us so why not a child? Infants respond usually with facial expressions and cooing. We acknowledge that as a response and we create our next message. This pattern goes back and forth several times. It is this backward-forward pattern (reciprocity) that teaches a child how to communicate with others. It does not matter what you are saying to the child or what the child is communicating back to you. The most important part is to wait for their response (verbal/non-verbal) and to reciprocate. Most often, we know our children so well that we do not wait for their response because we already know what they need/want. We need to create an opportunity for them to respond to us.

5. Scaffold

Scaffolding is a method of teaching that mimics how our brain processes information. When teaching a child a new set of skills, it is important that we know what they can do already and set up situations to encourage the child to move into their next stage. A gentle stretch of skills is what we want. If we aim for a big jump, the child may get frustrated. If we fail to stretch the child, they may be too comfortable with their current communication level and may not be motivated to attempt new skills. So how can we scaffold communication skills?

Going back to our first point, it is important for you to gauge what your child can and cannot yet do. For example, if your child does not yet respond to their name, play games to encourage awareness of self. Singing songs to introduce yourselves, saying his/her name and waving hello to your child in front of a mirror can be a good way to encourage self-exploration. If a child is already communicating by leading you by arm to a place/item that they need, encourage them to point by pretending not to understand what they are asking for. Point at and label items to encourage them to learn to point and request for items. Pointing is a good way for children to understand the need to communicate – the fact that it will result in an outcome, it serves a purpose. If they are always understood without having to make an effort to communicate, it is unlikely that they will attempt to learn any other ways of communicating. Pretending not to understand a child and prompting them through picture cards (visuals), pointing at the object or repeating words are good ways to encourage them to make an effort to be understood. If your child has access to items they like/need, there is little opportunity for them to be motivated to communicate with you. One way to tackle this is to place a couple of items out of reach so this creates an opportunity for them to make a request. Requests can be made by saying the full word of the item (if they can repeat after you), by saying a partial word (e.g. ‘Bot’ for Bottle), by pointing at the item (when they are pointing, model the word for them “Bottle? You want the bottle?), by gestures or by showing you a picture of a bottle. All forms of communication should be encouraged. Parents have to be consistent and always model the word for them. The more they hear it, the better their chances of learning it.

Most importantly, be consistent and patient. The best way a child learns is when the child feels safe. The best way to create safety is through relationship-building. In my next post, I will cover relationship-building activities you can do with your child for just 15 minutes each day.

© 2020, Amarit Kaur

Why Educational Remediation?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Child Development, Inclusive Education

Schools often put a huge amount of pressure on children. They are put in a class of 30 or 40; asked to learn, pay attention, not move, be interested and motivated to do work. While many children have the ability to cope with these pressures, there is also a group of children who find it difficult to cope. These children show subtle signs that may often go unnoticed. They may be the ones who score below average or sometimes even the ones who score above. They will sometimes exhibit disturbing behaviors or have drastic mood changes. They often are the ones who will do anything to get out doing school work that has been given to them.

Remediation for children with difficult in school

The signs are subtle but every now and then, a teacher or parent will notice that these children are missing out on something. At times, a teacher may make a recommendation for the child to be tested for any learning issues or cognitive differences. As I have seen from my experience, there are those parents who will take their child based on the recommendation, but there are also those who will find it difficult to accept. In certain instances, the children who’ve been tested may show certain cognitive differences and learning issues that may attribute to their negative behaviors in school. So what next?

Educational Remediation

Now these children may not specifically exhibit issues that fall under labels such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, ADHD, Autism and so on but they have overlapping areas of concern that needs a different kind of approach. Educational remedial therapy is the next step for these children to support them in developing better learning strategies and providing them with the skills necessary to live in this social world. This type of therapy is for those kids who do not fall under a specific category but still need the kind of support that a therapist can offer.  

A therapist who has training in special education will be able to identify the specific areas of concern and work towards providing strategies to overcome those difficulties. This person will support the child in understanding academic concepts to make school life more manageable. A tutor will work on subject areas and the general curriculum which can be done by any person who is knowledgeable in that area. This kind of therapy is like any other where it needs time and patience for it to properly show some progress in the child. Consistency is another major factor for therapy to work. If the child does not attend sessions regularly then the level of progress will be very slow. Any kind of psychological therapy has a stigma attached to it but the more we talk about it, the more acceptance there will be. The first step is for parents to accept that even though their child may seem “normal”, they still require more than a tutor.

If you would like to know more about this kind of therapy, please email us at naomi@inclusived.org or message us on our Facebook page.

Acceptance in Therapy

Posted 3 CommentsPosted in Child Development, Inclusive Education

Acceptance in therapy is two fold. Firstly, it is the endeavor to completely embrace one’s child for who they are and for any differences they may have. Secondly, it is understanding and being patient with the therapy that a child is undergoing. Acceptance is an easy enough notion to understand but is rather difficult to imbibe. We all face situations where we find it hard to accept the reality in front of us. Our expectations, hopes and desires make it arduous for us to adapt to what is in front of us.

Child accepted by parents is important to therapy.

Therefore, I am completely empathetic towards parents who find it difficult to accept that their child requires different coping mechanisms to go through life. All parents have certain desires and goals that they want their children to achieve and some find it tough to understand that it may not go their way. There’s one thing that I tell all my clients, the first step is acceptance and if you have taken that first step to come for therapy, you have already accomplished a lot.

Many parents tell me that they wish they would have come sooner and of course, that is definitely better for the child. But the fact that they have taken that step to get that extra support for their child is saying a lot. Once parents accept their child as he/she is, they will come to learn and love that person even more. All children, with additional needs or not, thrive when they are accepted for the people that they are and for the interests and desires they may have. Children learn that when they are accepted, they are respected.

The other aspect of acceptance is understanding and being patient with the therapy that your child is undergoing. Any psychological therapeutic process is just what it is, a process. It goes through ups and downs, has its own trials and errors and most importantly, takes time. Sometimes different therapies work differently for a variety of children. It is about being patient with that process and understanding that every child will progress at their own time. The therapeutic process can consist of a variety of techniques to enable the child to develop better coping mechanisms in order to live and work in the world around them.

Accepting your child completely is very important to their growth and their emotional well being. Take one small step each day in moving towards that goal of embracing your child with their strengths and weaknesses and you will see the difference.

At InclusivEd, our endeavour is to support children through an Inclusive approach to learning. Follow us on Facebook to know more. 

What is in a label?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Child Development, Inclusive Education

Diagnostic labels specify the kind of challenges that one is facing in their daily lives. For children, these challenges are in the areas of learning, socialisation, behaviour, communication, processing of information and so on. Today, with the kind of awareness and subtle acceptance of these challenges, children are being diagnosed for challenges concerning their learning and behaviour at a much higher rate. Labels are becoming ever so prominent, and with everything in life, I believe there are positive and negative aspects to this labeling.

Don’t get me wrong. I use to be a major proponent of labeling. It was the way I believed we should start working with children with additional support needs. But over the past few years, this notion in me has gradually changed. I have come to realise that it is not the label that matters, but the child in front of me and his/her challenges. I am starting to understand that while it is an advantage to have a label in that I comprehend their needs, the crux of the matter is that when I am sitting with a particular child and learning about his / her difficulties, the person who they present is what is important.

This is definitely a topic for debate. Hence, I would like to outline some positives and negatives when it comes to labeling children. This is my way of creating conversations about what it means to put a diagnostic label on a child and I feel we should discuss this more openly.

Positives of Labeling

  • To understand the symptoms presented in front of us.
  • To move the unnecessary blame from being on the child to the label.
  • To highlight the occurrences of a particular disorder in a given population.
  • To provide the appropriate accommodations for children in a school setting.
  • To provide a sense of understanding for the parents and child on what is happening

Negatives of Labeling

  • To risk an opening into further stigmatization of the child from his/her peers.
  • To risk a focus only on the symptoms of the label and ignore the presenting concerns.
  • To increase the risk of over diagnosis
  • To risk over medication
  • To risk the child losing his/her sense of choice and blaming everything on the diagnosis.
  • To avoid taking into account, any other factors that could be responsible for presenting behaviors.

So this has been my understanding of the effects of labeling and its pros and cons. I would like to hear from you too. Do write in the comment section or you can message me on your Facebook page.

Journey of Self-Exploration

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Inclusive Education, Workshops

A Workshop at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru

On the day of the workshop at the IISc, Bengaluru, I walked in early and found myself in awe of the green and beautiful campus. Honestly, I was nervous about standing in front of some of the country’s top students and asking them about identity, belongingness and their understanding of body image. The serene environment at the campus went a long way in calming my nerves down.

Naomi Menon, Founder, InclusivEd at a workshop in Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru

Held on 2nd February 2019, the workshop was for undergraduate students on self-exploration and what that meant. We started with Professor Anjula Gurtoo talking about how our names were a big part of our identity and our understanding of ourselves in relation to the world outside. When the students shared their own thoughts about this, it was evident that some of them didn’t like their names because of what it meant or how it stood out. The intention behind this game was to recognise how our names constitute a very big part of our identity and sense of self.

We then moved to the next part of the workshop, where we wanted to created a sense of belonging within the group to understand how we are not alone in our thoughts, feelings or behaviours. I facilitated the ‘Line Game’ which was a series of 20 questions that students were asked to answer and then to identify how they were not alone in their answers. For some, it gave an insight into what they’ve been feeling about themselves and also a deeper evaluation of how they could relate to another person even if they do not know them.

Naomi Menon, Founder, InclusivEd at a workshop in  Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru

The last segment of the workshop was on body image which has become such a integral part of all our lives and dictates how we present ourselves to the outside world. I facilitated a discussion between the students and it was an opportunity for them to speak openly about their ideas and feelings surrounding body image issues. It was great to see the students being open and honest with each other about what they liked or did not like about themselves.

It was an enriching experience for students as well as for me. We learn a lot from each other and I only hope they continue on this journey of self-exploration.

At InclusivEd, our endeavour is to support children through an Inclusive approach to learning. Follow us on Facebook to know more.

What is Inclusive Education?

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Inclusive Education

The field of education has come a long way. We have moved away from segregating children into special and non-special schools. Rather, schools these days follow an Inclusive approach. Inclusive Education is a child-centric approach, where schools include differently-abled children in the mainstream structure. 

Mainstream school with classroom doors open - Inclusivness
Inclusive Education is a child-centric approach, where schools include differently-abled children in the mainstream structure

While, inclusive education has become a buzz word; the actual practice of inclusion can only come about when we first acknowledge what the child needs. We need to understand the child’s areas of concerns and requirements in terms of support. Inclusion does not mean we force a child to be part of a mainstream structure, only because it is the norm to do so. 

Integrative vs Inclusive

There is a huge difference between integrative and inclusive practices. Integration means that a child with a disability is part of the mainstream school but is refrained from doing the same things as his / her peers. Whereas, inclusive practices are those which ensure that a child with a disability is allowed to perform the same or similar functions as his / her peers. 

Benefits of Inclusive Education:

  • Diversity in the classroom: The peer group is an important part of every child’s life. Children learn from each other quicker than they would from the adults around them. When we have a classroom that is a mixture of children with or without additional support needs, we are teaching important values of acceptance, support, creativity and empathy
  • Collaboration in the classroom: Children learn that they need to accept one other and be better team players. When you have children from diverse backgrounds and with diverse needs, they soon realize that they need to support one another in order to better themselves.
  • Preparation for reality: An inclusive classroom prepares children for the outside world.  It allows them to learn how to understand each other and live in harmony.
  • Breaks down the stereotypes: Inclusive classrooms help in educating children about what additional support needs are and what are the stereotypes associated with it. It helps in reducing the stigma attached to the various ‘disabilities’ and allows children to become better informed.
  • Better teaching practices: Inclusive classroom challenges the educator in a good way. He/she will need to cater to all learning styles as well as effectively practice differentiated instruction. This form of teaching will benefit, not only a child with additional support needs, but all children.

Inclusive education is a philosophy and a way of imparting education to ALL children. It needs to cater to all children in the classroom to allow them to grow together so that we can have a better and brighter future. 

At InclusivEd, our endeavour is to support children through an Inclusive approach to learning. Follow us on Facebook to know more.