The number of children whose academic, social and intellectual life is affected due to mental and developmental conditions is on the rise. Most of these conditions develop to uncontrollable levels because of ignorance or negligence. The many myths surrounding mental or developmental conditions are a major cause of families of affected children to develop bitterness and to shy off from seeking appropriate help in time.
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Several early intervention programs have been put in place, and the number of beneficiaries of these programs is increasing by the day. Affected children are given a different perspective in life and their families are helped to deal with any form of intimidation and shame they may be going through.
This research seeks to look into early intervention programs and their effectiveness. Other factors tackled herein include the memory functions that affect reading comprehension as well as the various developmental factors that influence reading acquisition.
Young children are more exposed to attack on their health, and are therefore more likely to have disability or handicap of any form. If such a discovery upon a child is made, early intervention is put into application. It either includes helping the affected child and his immediate family to prevent development of such a condition or assisting in control of the condition, in cases where the condition has already developed.
Early intervention is not only restricted to hospitals and health care centers, but it is also practiced in schools, homes and in other relevant units. It also covers children in all stages of life including new born babies. Early intervention is not merely done for the child’s welfare, but also for the child’s family and for the society at large; a child on whom early intervention is done tends to be more productive and profitable to his family and the society.
Importance of early intervention
Research reports from reliable sources indicate that parents of children who have a handicap or a similar condition are more likely to divorce or separate than parents of non handicapped children (Sousa, p 54).
It is also reported that the careers of the parents are greatly affected, and one of the parents ends up being laid off or resigning early from work. There is also a tendency of such families to keep to themselves because of shame and low self esteem (Lapp, p 98). All of the above effects are likely to be a major drawback to the child’s mental and emotional growth.
It is also easier to shape a young person into anything, and the ease with which one can learn and do an acquired thing decreases with age. Since children gain knowledge and grow physically, mentally and psychologically faster when young, it is recommended that early intervention is carried out the earliest possible (Sousa, p 101).
A child’s conscience is innocent, and it is easier to teach a child to adapt to a handicap without developing self pity than it is to teach an adult or an older person. It is therefore advisable to implement an early intervention program as soon as any development of a condition is suspected (Sousa, p 101).
How successful is early intervention?
It has been proved that early intervention works, as gathered from collected data, parents, teachers, and siblings of affected children. The beneficiaries of such programs are said to perform better in school, to have better proficiency in employment and to have better relations with people than those who did not undergo the program (Richardson, p 243).
According to research findings, those that do not have early intervention practiced on them are very anti-social, and they show no appreciation for education. Most of them also repeat classes and lack motivation for pursuing studies beyond O-level (Lapp, p 132).
There are various early intervention programs that have shown efficiency over the years. Such programs are different in what they tackle, and they affect different classes of conditions that affect children and their families. Successful programs include: those that cover children between the age of three and six years inclusive who show problems in how they behave (Lapp, p 152).
An example of such a program is Exploring Together Preschool Program (ETPP). Another type of early intervention programs are those that deal with helping children who are at a risk of getting certain diseases because of being overweight. Other programs help children who have mental problems and children who are hyperactive and are at a risk of having emotional crisis and are in need for excessive attention (Sousa, p 146).
For children who are a bit older and they have difficulties in reading, programs are implemented to assist them to have fluency and to build their vocabulary. This is done by giving them passages to read over a period of several weeks or even months, depending on the rate at which the children are learning.
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The complexity of these passages increases with time as the children develop “automatic decoding.” According to Richardson, reading done persistently and consistently over a period of time eventually develops the ability in the child to be fluent and sharp without any effort to think about it, something he calls “over reading.” The two most effective ways of assisting such children are the use of reciprocal teaching and the use of self questioning (Richardson, p 310).
Brain based factors using memory functions to build reading comprehension
The working memory of the brain is what in to read, to understand and to reason argumentatively. The information one reads is developed in the brain and laid up in the memory (Sousa, p 155). For a child to have full comprehension of what he or she reads, several functions of the memory have to be in place.
The receptive memory enables the child to have the decoding ability of what they read. After decoding, the contents of the material are not yet home. The proper functioning of the conservative memory will enable the decoded message to be retained in a specific part of the brain, after which the message is developed and built upon in the multiplicative memory (Richardson, p 245).
The significative memory will help the child to compare or relate the information they read with any other related information that may have stored in their memory. Both the restorative and the determinative memory functions process the read information so as to give it more meaningfulness (Richardson, p 247). How meaningful a piece of information is will be seen by the output seen from the child. These functions enhance the child’s remembering ability and his application of the knowledge (Lapp, p 149).
Basically, reading comprehension entails the ability to not only read a particular article, but to also acquire meaning from it and to have a helpful interpretation of the contents therein. For children who may have sustained mild or severe brain injuries, reading comprehension becomes somewhat challenging.
Most of these children suffer from dyslexia, a condition in which a child may be able to read any article with fluency but with difficulties in understanding the contents of the article. Brain health and fitness is important if one is to have accurate comprehension of what they read (Richardson, p 65).
Developmental factors that interact with the acquisition of reading
The development of a child is influenced by various factors which in turn influence the way in which the child will acquire reading skills. The relationships that surround a child determine how the child will develop mentally. Such relationships include those between the child and his parents, siblings and other influential people in the child’s life.
The child also watches how the parents relate to each other, how elder siblings relate to each other and how teachers relate to each other (Lapp, p 105). The above mentioned relationships have a way of programming the neurons of the brain to produce positive or negative development of the child. This directly affects the performance of the child academically and in other areas (Sousa, p 204).
The rate of development of the brain in the lifetime of a child is determined by the developmental rate of his brain in the first three years of his life (Richardson, p 196). In these three years, the development of the child’s brain is mostly determined by those who give care to the child.
In most cases, a child has both parents working the whole day, and the child is left in the hands of a nanny or in a day care nursery. Research shows that children who pass through day care nurseries have better reading acquisition skills than those who do not. This is because in such nurseries, the child is not just looked after before the parents get home from work, but they are also prepared for pre-school (Sousa, p 121).
Another developmental factor that influences how a child will acquire reading skills in their academic lifetime is the kind of socioeconomic status they are brought up in. Poverty in a family slows down a child’s development, and it has been found to have direct traumatic effects on the child.
It limits the child’s thinking capacity and it draws out the morale of developing themselves by learning (Lapp, p 43). Such children have a low self esteem and they believe that they cannot achieve what another child can. The effects of poverty on a child follow that child in other areas of his life and up to an advanced age (Lapp, p 49).
Because of lack of money, the child’s parents may also not be in a position to pay for the child’s fees or to buy resourceful materials and books. Therefore, the efforts of a child who has self motivation to read are invalidated.
Poverty also has indirect effects on a child. Poverty has been a known cause for domestic fights between parents, which adversely affects the child’s development and perspective of life. Parents who result to drinking, drug abuse and prostitution become a bad influence to the child, who may end up adapting a similar lifestyle (Richardson, p 476).
Poverty translates to under nutrition and malnutrition. This means that the child does not have the opportunity to eat foods that contain nutrients which enhance brain development (Lapp, p 174). As a result of malnutrition, the child is also prone to deficiency diseases. This affects the child’s development in many ways.
For example, the sick child is not able to participate in outdoor activities that go a long way in helping a child develop. He is not able to play and interact with other children. Sickness may also mean that the child will be out of school many times. This may lead to the child having to repeat some classes; a major cause of low self esteem and a poor self image in the child (Lapp, p 186).
Conditions pertaining to the child’s mental wellness are influenced by various factors, some of which are unchangeable. It is virtually not achievable to make a child immune, or so to say, from development of any condition that may affect their thinking, reasoning and developmental capacity, but it is possible, upon suspicion of any development, to change the course of a child’s life using a suitable early intervention program. Early intervention programs are not only effective and beneficial to the child, but also to their families and to the society at large.
Sousa, A. David. How the brain learns to read. California: Corwin Press, 2005, p 246.
Richardson, S. Judy, Morgan, F., Raymond & Fleener, Evelyn. Charlene reading to learn in the content areas (Edition7). New York: Cengage Learning, 2008, p 536.
Lapp, Diane, & Fisher, Douglas. Essential readings on comprehension. Philadelphia: International Reading Assoc., 2009, p 168.