What is in a label?

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

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.

Play Years : Developmental Milestones

A major step in the life of any child is the beginning of the school phase. Children as young as two years old are now being put into playschools where they start learning basic social skills as well as academic ones. Psychologists term the stage from two years to five years as preschool years or ‘play years’. In this stage, the concept of play is very important as it helps the child to understand the social structure of their peer group as well as develop their language skills. The neurological changes in the brain, during this time, greatly influence the processes of language. Children have the urge to talk continuously or communicate with the people around which helps them to develop better speaking skills, grammar structure as well as develop a wide range of vocabulary. Their cognitive and motor skills are also more developed which allows them to participate in as many play activities as they want. Children between the ages of 3 to 5, develop a concept called ‘theory of mind’. It is the understanding that other people may think differently from them and they can judge their thoughts. Emotional skills also develop during this phase where a child who is three years old may be prone to tantrums or uncontrollable anger but a child at five years old is able to control and better express his/her emotions.

Development Milestones in Play Years

Now going back to the assessment or observation of children at this stage for any areas of concern, we can look at certain developmental milestones. I would like to reiterate that the below checklist is only a guideline towards understanding if your child has an area of concern. I would urge you to consult a child psychologist or clinical psychologist if you have any concerns regarding your child’s mental and intellectual health. Please observe your child over a period of six months to see if the issues are still continuing and then you can consult your doctor. You can use the checklist below as an initial guideline to help you with your observations.

Developmental tasksExpected AgeCompleted
Walks up steps by stepping one foot on each.4 years
Picks up small objects easily4 years
Unbuttons4 years
Tells stories4 years
Speaks in completed sentences4 years
He/she knows his/her full name, age, gender4 years
Speech is intelligible 4 years
Dresses oneself4 years
Feeds self4 years
Toilet trained4 years
Gets along with other children4 years
Imitates adults doing simple tasks4 years
Build tower of ten blocks 4 years
Copies a circle4 years
Matches object to color4 years
Hops and skips on one foot5 years
Catches a ball with hands5 years
Brushes teeth5 years
Follows 3 step-commands4-5 years
Recognizes shapes5 years
Points to four colors5 years
Copies square, triangle, circle5 years

*Partially taken from the ‘Academic Problems in primary school children enrolled under SSA-Karnataka’

Speech and language milestones in Infants
Toddler Milestones
Areas of Development in Children

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

Areas of Development in Children

Every living being goes through stages of development and we, humans, are no different. We are continuously changing and growing right from the time of conception till death.  Our physical, cognitive and emotional aspects are gradually evolving as we grow older. Sometimes, we notice these changes and at other points, it happens without us seeing them. The measurement or understanding of these changes is what helps us understand if there are any areas of concern we need to consider especially for children. Our successful development at an adult stage is dependent on how well we are supported at childhood. Therefore the appropriate kind of support that is given to a child right from infancy is extremely important. There are of course, aspects of the developing brain that we cannot control but the kind of support that is given to ensure that successful cognitive development is taking place, is definitely under one’s control.

With the right support childs development can be taken care

I would like to focus on a few areas of development that I believe are important for young children to develop appropriately:

Physical development

Refers to the growth of one’s bone structure, muscles and other parts of the body. The body naturally develops but is influenced by factors of nutrition, race, culture, parental health and economic background. Strong physical development is affected by the kind of food intake, the background of the child and his/her family, experiences of the parents, financial background of the family and the amount of stimuli in the environment.

Motor development

Refers to the development of gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills involve the use of larger muscles which help in performing activities like sitting, walking, running, climbing and so on. Fine motor skills involve the use of smaller muscle groups like picking objects, writing, buttoning and so on. The development of these skills ensure that the child will be able to perform the necessary functions at the appropriate ages. The under development of these skills may lead to certain issues in academics as well as the social environment.

Cognitive development

Looks at the development of the quality and quantity of mental activities like perception, thinking, judgment, reasoning, problem solving and so on. There are many psychological theories that explain the different stages of cognitive development which can be addressed specifically later. It is important to understand the stages of cognitive development to appropriately support the child in order for him/her to be successful in academics as well as social situations.

Emotional development

Refers to the changes in the child’s emotions expressed and managed in a variety of situations. Emotions mobilizes the organism’s resources and energizes it to meet emergency situations. A child may or may not be able to accurately express their emotions and most of the time; it is expressed in the form of behavior. This form of expression is what causes a rift between parent and child as neither is able to understand the other. Children can suffer from emotional challenges which affect their overall social skills and relationships with people.

Social development

Deals with the changes in behavior that a child may go through due to the influence and expectations of society. The child is ‘socialised’ into performing various functions appropriately like for example, the stereotyping of boys and girls in terms of their behavior, emotional expression, roles in situations and so on. This form of development helps the child understand what is appropriate behavior when in a social situation and helps him/her to develop various societal attitudes. Play is an important medium for social development in children. It is a voluntary activity that allows the child to engage in without thinking about the results. When you allow your child to engage in various play activities, it gives them a platform to use their imagination and also develop certain cognitive faculties.

Speech and language milestones in Infants
Toddler Milestones

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

Toddler Milestones

Development is a journey where each child moves forward in a series of steps. Early milestones are important when one is assessing a child for any areas of concern and their achievement holds true even when the child is older. I would like to continue from my earlier post on infant development and the milestones to look out for. These milestones are guidelines to help you observe your child as he/she goes through these stages or even if you have an older child and they have not successfully completed these stages. Please use the below checklist as a way of understanding whether there is a need for a further evaluation of your child’s cognitive, motor, social and emotional skills. It is always best to consult a pediatrician or a clinical psychologist for further assessment.

We are now going to look at the major developmental tasks and speech milestones in the toddler phase. Do not worry if your child has not completed one or two tasks but look at the overall picture of his/her development. Please use the below checklist only as a guideline to observe your child and if you find any concerns, do visit your doctor today.

Developmental tasks Expected age Completed
Walks well without support 2 -3 years  
Carries toy while walking 2-3 years  
Squats to pick up a toy 13 – 18 months  
Recognizes self in the mirror 2-3 years  
Stacks two objects or blocks 13-18 months  
Refers to self by name 2-3 years  
Feeds self using a spoon or own hands 2-3 years  
Drinks from glass unassisted 2-3 years  
Occupies self in play 2-3 years  
Goes up on steps using two feet at a time 3 years  
Walks on tiptoe 3 years  
Runs easily 3 years  
Unwraps candy 3 years  
Pulls off socks as part of undressing 3 years  
Helps adults put away toys when asked 3 years  
Turns pages one at a time 3 years  

*Table taken from the “Academic Problems in primary school children enrolled under SSA-Karnataka”

Speech and language milestones in the toddler phase:

Expected Age Receptive language Expressive language Completed
Follows 1-step
without gesture
Points to 1 body part; Immature
jargoning; Can say up to 5 words
Point to 1
Points to 3 body
parts and to self
Mature jargoning; Up to 25 words;
Giant words: “all gone, thank-you”
Begins to
Follows 2 step
Points to 5-10
Up to 50 words;
2-word sentences;
Early telegraphic speech,
for example: “Give water”, “Want mama”
Understands “just one”;
Points to parts
of pictures
Uses pronouns appropriately;
uses plural words;
speech is 50% intelligible
3 years Knows opposites;
follows 2
250+ words;
3-word sentences;
Answers “what” and “where” questions;
speech is 75% intelligible

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

Children Develop in Similar but Different Ways

Development in humans happens slowly and progressively over different age groups. Development is a journey. It is not a competition. Development occurs in different areas – physical, motor, cognitive, emotional and social. As we develop most of these areas during our early years, it is far more important than adolescent or later development. 

Development in Children

While there are developmental milestones, children may develop differently and may not truly follow the same recommended stages. However, this is not to say that a child must be left to their own device. As a parent, it is important to look for any delays that you may feel warrant a closer look. There is never any harm in getting advice for your child’s physical and mental health. 

Developmental Tasks in Infants

Developmental Tasks

Now, let’s take a look at the overall developmental tasks and the specific speech and language milestones that infants are expected to perform. The below tasks are some of the expected behaviours that infants should be able to perform. However, it is always advisable to consult your pediatrician about any concerns you may have. 

You can use the below table to identify if you child has completed these developmental tasks. But, do not worry if they haven’t. Some children can develop slower than others. However, it is important to keep observing their developmental behaviours.  

Developmental tasks Expected age Completed
Rolls from stomach to back 0-6 months  
Reaches for a toy 0-6 months  
Transfers toy from one hand to another 0-6 months  
Looks for noises made near him/her 0-6 months  
Makes sounds for specific reasons like hunger or toilet 0-6 months  
Helps hold bottle after drinking 0-6 months  
Plays with toes 0-6 months  
Pats mirror image 0-6 months  
Puts everything into his/her mouth 0-6 months  
Follows toys when held in front of eyes and moved 0-6 months  
Sits without support 6-12 months  
Pulls to standing position 6-12 months  
Crawls on fours 6-12 months  
Feeds self a biscuit 6-12 months  
Turns pages off a book 6-12 months  

*Taken from Academic problems in primary school children enrolled under SSA-Karnataka (All India Institute of Speech and Hearing, Mysore)

Speech and Language Milestones

Expected Age Receptive language Expressive language Completed
0-3 months Alerts to voice Cries; social smile; coos  
4-6 months Responds to voice; name Laughs out loud; Clicks tongue;
Begins babbling
7-9 months Turns head toward sound Says names for mother and father
10-12 months Enjoys “peek a boo”;
Understand no;
Follows 1 step command
with gesture
Says ‘ma’ and ‘dada’ appropriately;
Waves bye-bye; Begins to gesture;
Shakes head no;
1st word other than ‘mama/dada’

The opinions expressed here are that of the Author

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

Importance of Early Intervention

Ask any architect, and they will tell you the importance of a strong foundation. Once the foundation is in place and the supports are provided, a beautiful house can be built. Likewise, the early years of your child are of paramount importance, especially if they are at risk or have special needs. With the right support, focus and professional guidance, any child can be enabled to build a beautiful life. Early Intervention is required to ensure the child receives this support.

What is Early Intervention?

Fortunately, the world is moving ahead in the space of inclusion and there is a lot more awareness that children with special needs require support from the beginning. Therefore, early diagnosis and intervention is of utmost importance.

Early intervention is defined as a group of strategies that provide adequate support to children with additional support needs as well as to their families and caregivers. To put it simply, these strategies ensure that your child is able to cope better as they grow.

Child and Parent - Early Intervention

The relationship between the child and teacher

Ideally, early intervention can start only after diagnosis, which can be done only after your child has turned 4 or 5 years old. During their early years, children spend a majority of their waking hours with their teachers. Often, we undermine the importance of our pre-school and kindergarten teachers. However, in case of early intervention, there are pivotal to the child’s success.

The Problem

Teachers are the ones creating the foundation for all children to grow and succeed. Hence, they should be given training in identification of children with additional support needs. They should be included in creating the curriculum and designing the syllabus. They are the core of the development of a child with additional needs and they must have the resources to ensure they can be productive.

Unfortunately, the importance of these teachers is being undervalued both by schools as well as parents. Schools need to start looking at primary teachers more favourably and parents need to recognise the impact these teachers have on their child’s life. If the teacher at the kindergarten does not teach a child the alphabets, it is that much harder for them to cope when they reach higher grades. For a child with additional needs, a teacher’s support could mean the difference of whether they would be able to cope, feel included and excel in our society.

Early diagnosis, intervention and a teacher’s role in this process must be given more attention. Otherwise, we all fail in supporting a child when they require it the most.

The Opinions expressed are that of the Author

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

Myths about Children

When children are born, we believe that there needs to be an instinctual way of parenting them. Very often, we adopt the one-size-fits-all notion and group children as one type. Hence, applying the same techniques and strategies to parent them. We also tend to fall back on age old stereotypes and myths, that can be detrimental to a child’s development. Here are some of those myths busted: 

Myth 1 – Children do not experience stress or
depression like adults

Child Depressed

Truth – Every person goes through some form of stress.  The expression of that stress is also different. It may be hard to understand or observe depression in children, but it can happen. Depression can affect individuals as small as infants where it is recognized as ‘anaclitic depression’.

Anaclitic depression is a severe deterioration of the physical, social and psychological development of the infant when separated from the mother for a long period of time. Not all children who are sad, can be diagnosed as depressed. But parents should look out for drastic sudden mood changes, lack of appetite, a feeling of hopelessness, sudden outbursts of tantrums and anger. If you have noticed that your child is experiencing some of these changes and it is affecting his/her daily life, please consult a mental health doctor.

Myth 2 – Children have to be the ‘best’ in their field

Child reaching for the stars

Truth – It is natural to want your child to be the best. But you are also putting undue pressure on a child who will grow to believe that making mistakes or failing is the worst thing in the world. Children experience unspeakable amounts of psychological stress when they are subjected to high amounts of pressure. Encourage your child to improve themselves, have goals, accept their failures and most of all, just love themselves as they are.

Myth 3 – A slap never hurt anyone

Punished Child - Skao

Truth – Parents have a challenging task of disciplining their child with all the pressures from the outside world. So no one can blame you, if you in anger, raise your hand against your child to discipline him/her. But parents, it is never a good practice to start. What you are teaching your child, is that whenever he/she experiences anger or frustration, the way to solve the problem is to physically react. Children learn from the behavior of the adults around them and will replicate that behavior in front of their peers and other individuals around them. Discipline is good but it can be inculcated in better ways.

Myth 4 – Children who practice problem behaviors will eventually outgrow them

Angry Child - Misbehaviour

Truth – Misbehavior is not uncommon in children. We all want to break rules, play pranks, do things independently but the concern starts when some of these behaviors get worse or start physically and mentally hurting the people around us. Children with severe problem behaviors grow up to continue those behaviors if not treated. Parents, when you notice that your child has been acting out or misbehaving to a point of hurting someone else, either physically or mentally, please seek help immediately. Sometimes these behaviors can go unnoticed and therefore unresolved.

Myth 5 – Children who develop late can grow out of it later

Child Studying

Truth – In my experience, there are a few children who develop later than the appropriate age and have managed to catch up to their developmentally appropriate peers. But a majority of children who develop late need extra support in bridging that gap so that they are able to perform like their peers. More than three fourths of children with disabilities have a history of delay in their developmental milestones. Parents, if you observe that your child has not developed appropriately in terms of motor skills,speech, language expression, please consult a clinical psychologist today. There is nothing better than seeking the right kind of support for your child at the right time.

The opinions here are of the Author. 

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?

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.