Hesperian Health Guides
The Need for Early Stimulation
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The parents and family are the key to the development and early learning of any child. Children who are developmentally slow need the same stimulation (talking to them, music, games, adventure, and love) that any child needs. But they need more. They need more help and repeated activities to use their minds and their bodies.
When a child is delayed, he needs stimulation and activities to help develop all areas of his body and mind.
AREAS OF A CHILD’S DEVELOPMENT THAT CAN BE HELPED THROUGH EARLY STIMULATION AND LEARNING ACTIVITIES
|1. Movement, body control, strength, and balance: these will help the child move about, do things, play, and work.|
|2. Use of the hands: increased hand control, and coordination of the hands with what the child sees, allows the child to develop many skills.|
|3. The senses: especially seeing, hearing and feeling. These will help the child recognize and respond to her world.|
Ring the bell.
|4. Communication: listening, understanding what is said, and learning to speak, or to communicate in whatever way is possible.|
|5. Interaction with other people: smiling, playing, behaving appropriately, and learning to ‘get along’ with others.|
|6. Basic activities for daily living: eating, drinking, dressing, and control of bowel and bladder (peeing and shitting). These ‘self-care’ skills help the child become more independent.|
|7. Observing, thinking, and doing: to learn how to make thoughtful, intelligent decisions.|
The goals of an early stimulation program are to help the child become as able, self-sufficient, happy, and kind as possible.
Steps in Designing a Program of Special Learning and Early Stimulation
First: Observe the child closely to evaluate what he can and cannot do in each developmental area.
Second: Notice what things he is just beginning to do or still has difficulty with.
Third: Decide what new skill to teach or action to encourage that will help the child build on the skills he already has.
Fourth: Divide each new skill into small steps: activities the child can learn in a day or two, and then go on to the next step.
Suggestions for Doing Learning Activities with any Child (Delayed or Not)
Be patient and observant. Children do not learn all the time; sometimes they need to rest. When they are rested, they will begin to progress again. Observe the child closely. Try to understand how she thinks, what she knows, and how she uses her new skills. You will then learn how to help her practice and improve those skills. When talking with the child, give her time to answer your questions. Take turns speaking. Remember that practice and repetition are important.
Be orderly and consistent. Plan special activities to progress naturally from one skill to the next. Try to play with the child at about the same time each day, and to put his toys, tools, clothes, and so on, in the same place. Stay with one style of teaching, loving, and behavior development (if it works!). Respond in a similar way each time to the child’s actions and needs. This will help him to understand and to feel more confident and secure.
Use variety. While repetition is important, so is variety! Change the activities a little every day, so that the child and her helpers do not get bored. Do things in different ways, and in various places inside and outside of the house. Take the child to the market, fields, and the river. Give her a lot of things to do.
Be expressive. Use your face and your tone of voice to show your feelings and thoughts. Speak clearly and simply (but do not use ‘baby talk’). Praise and encourage the child often.
Have a good time! Look for ways to turn all activities into games that both the child and you enjoy.
Be practical. Whenever possible choose skills and activities that will help the child become more independent and be able to do more, for himself and for others. To help prepare the child for greater independence, do not overprotect him.
Be confident. All children will respond in some way to care, attention, and love. With your help, a child who is delayed can become more able and independent.
A special learning program, if well-planned and carefully done, can help a delayed child progress much more than she would without help.