Teacher speak: Could your child have a disability?
Present day medical advancements make it possible to save a large number of babies who earlier would not have survived, as a result of complications at birth. Still, many children continue to be born with various medical conditions and special needs. “At 5 months I realised that ‘something’ seemed wrong with my daughter’s eyes,” said a mother who had little knowledge on her daughter’s condition. “My child was rejecting me and always looked away when I approached. It was much later that I realised that my child was able to see only from her corner of his eye and was in fact turning his head to be able to look at me better,” said a mother who was anxious with her child’s conduct towards her. Many mothers are unaware of potential medical conditions of their children, which can be handled with expert knowledge, early intervention and support from special educators. Early intervention in particular can go a long way in ensuring that the special development needs of the child are met, emotional support is provided to the family, making social integration simpler. Children can, irrespective of their abilities and disabilities, be great contributors to society, in their own unique way. It’s how we nurture them at the start of their life that determines their outlook to their disability. It is with this intention that a team of special educators from the Helen Kellar Institute of Deaf and Deafblind based on years of experience have put together some guidance, which would help indicate if a child is at risk of having a disability. A high risk baby is one who has greater chances of being developmentally delayed or having vision, hearing, loco motor related and/or other neuromuscular challenges.
- Was your baby prematurely born? i.e. born before completing 37 weeks of gestational period. These risks are greater in case the baby is born earlier, e.g at 32 weeks, 28 weeks and so on.
- Did your baby have low birth weight? The average weight of an Indian baby at the time of birth should be somewhere around 2.5 kg to 2.9 kg. Babies weighing less than 2.5 kg may also face developmental, vision, hearing, loco motor challenges.
- Did your baby have a delayed cry? i.e. did not cry immediately after birth
- Did your baby have to be given oxygen or be kept in an incubator after birth?
- Did your baby have an epileptic seizure or severe jaundice during the first few weeks after birth?
- Did your baby feed normally after birth (either mother’s milk or outside milk)?
- If a child does not accept milk for a long time and appropriate measure is not taken then the child might develop Hypoglycaemia (lack of glucose in blood) leading to a seizure and brain damage. This in turn will lead to serious developmental issues.
- Hypoglycaemia can also occur after birth in case of babies born to diabetic mothers.
- As your baby grows do you find that he/she:
- Does not smile back or have eye contact when you talk to her
- Does not look in your direction or follow you when you move around her without making any noise
- Does not make an effort to reach out to colourful/shiny things hung or kept in front
- Lowers, squints or closes her eyes when in direct sunlight or in a brightly lit space
- Gets eye infection or reddening of eyes frequently
- Bangs into/tumbles over things often while walking or crawling
- Refuses to go to dimly lit areas in the house alone
- Has a squint
- Does not startle, quietens or looks in the direction of loud sounds like banging of the door, mixer grinder, cooker whistle, sound of a vehicle etc.
- Does not respond to name calling in any way ( smiling or turning towards you)
- Takes toys or colourful things very close to their eyes or keeps bending low over them
If any of the above is true then consult your DOCTOR or take your child to a paediatric hospital as soon as possible.
Photo Credits : Nipa Bhansali
Words By : Teachers of Helen Kellar Institute of Deaf & Deafblind, Mumbai
Teachers of Helen Kellar Institute of Deaf & Deafblind, Mumbai