BENGALURU: Surviving the pandemic has been hard for many, but for non-neurotypical children — those with neurodevelopmental disorders, the situation is much worse. These include children with autism, sensory processing disorders, hearing impairment, intellectual disabilities, etc.
“They have developed limitations in understanding, coupled with expressive delay and impairments in social reciprocity, which, at times, leads to maladaptive behaviours such as self-aggression. In preschoolers who are hearing impaired or hard of hearing, the mask’s straps can be irritating when children already have hearing aids, cochlear implant processors, and eyeglass frames around their ears. Some of the children also have sensory-processing disorders or difficulties, making them overly sensitive to the texture, scent, or pressure of face masks. These unpleasant sensations can magnify their distress and overwhelm their bodies, leading to meltdowns and mask removal,” said Dr Ambika S Udupa, Consultant, Development Paediatrician, Aster RV Hospital.
Expressive delays include two factors. The first is language, wherein children are not able to respond, and the second is behaviour, where they are not able to express their needs, such as asking for water, wanting to be carried, etc. Social reciprocity refers to milestones where the child can give acceptable social gestures from a certain age, such as saying hello, bye, etc.
“In the last two years, therapy centres have shut which has deprived the children and their parents of behavioural and occupational therapy. Online therapy is challenging, as these children cannot pay attention or comprehend the training inputs. All these factors have led to aggressive behaviour, not complying with the request of parents, erratic sleeping and eating patterns, etc. The state needs to focus on these paediatric cases as well,” said Dr K John Vijay Sagar, Professor and Head of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences.Their regular or special schools have also been closed. Therapy helps them achieve typical milestones like sitting, smiling, rolling over, etc. It also teaches caregivers how to train the child. With this support system unavailable, the kids are at risk of no progress, or worse, regression of skills.