CHENNAI: For more than 30 years, Dr Jayanthi Narayan has worked in the field of learning and intellectual disabilities and swears by the concept of early intervention programmes for babies that show even the slightest signs of disability.
The former deputy director of the National Institute of the Mentally Handicapped was recently in the city for an international conference on ‘Early Intervention in Mental Retardation and Associated Disabilities’ and sat down with Express to discuss the importance of immediate diagnosis of mental disabilities in a child. “As soon as the child is born, it is given the APGAR test through which an initial estimation can be made of the child’s mental and bodily functions,” she explained.
APGAR stands for A- Appearance (Pinkish), P- Pulse, G- Grimace (Reflex), A- Activity and R- Respiration (breathing easy). “All doctors are supposed to do this test; there are two points for each of the categories. So if a baby gets between 5-7 marks or lesser, then it shows that there might be some issues,” said Narayan. She also said parents can notice early signs when babies start to miss certain milestones, like if they are unable to lift their heads after three months, if they start to walk late, if they are unable to communicate even after they turn two, if they are unable to make eye contact or roll their eyes, or take longer than normal to respond to an action.
“In many cases parents find it difficult to accept that there might be some difficulties that their child might be facing. They continue to stay in denial and tell themselves that the kids will get better with age or the symptoms will just disappear one fine day. But this is just delaying treatment and the longer the delay, the sharper the gap between the chronological age and the expected behavior for that age,” Narayan told Express.
The doctor applauded Chennai’s Madhuram Narayanan Centre for Exceptional Children for working with parents and helping them deal better with their child’s condition, “Parents usually feel like they are alone in their battle, especially when they cannot take their children out to public functions and lose out on a social life.